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Security-Gadget Business Booms

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

On Mondays, our business report focuses on technology, and today we have high-tech security gadgets. It's a good time to be in the security business, and we saw just how good when we stopped at a recent convention of law enforcement groups here in Washington.

We're standing outside the exhibition hall for the conference known as GOVSEC here at Washington's Convention Center where three different law enforcement organizations are holding their conventions simultaneously. We're outside the exhibition hall where we're going to see new security technology, and it may be a sign of things that we're going to see shortly that there's a sign at the edge of this exhibition hall saying, `Please have a photo ID available.'

OK, we're moving onto the exhibition floor, going into the basement exhibition floor that we, in fact, were able to get press credentials without showing a photo ID in spite of the sign.

Hi. How are you? I'm Steve Inskeep. I'm a reporter with National Public Radio.

Mr. STEVE LENOX (Dedicated Micros): And I'm Steve Lenox with Dedicated Micros. We're a digital video recorder manufacturer for surveillance.

INSKEEP: I guess you must have cameras hidden here somewhere because...

Mr. LENOX: No, they're not hidden, really.

INSKEEP: Oh...

Mr. LENOX: They're ju--they're up there.

INSKEEP: Well, we're looking at images--we're looking at several images of ourselves standing here in the booth.

Mr. LENOX: Right.

INSKEEP: Do you think you go through life a little differently because you're in this business and you know that there are cameras everywhere recording your movements?

Mr. LENOX: I don't think so because at Dedicated Micros we've been used to having that video. We use that as a productivity tool in the office.

INSKEEP: There are cameras on you when you're working?

Mr. LENOX: Absolutely. So if I call in--I'd say `Hey, I need to talk to Mary.' She can look right on the screen and say, `Mary's not at her desk.'

INSKEEP: Does this ever feel creepy to you?

Mr. LENOX: No, it feels--I don't know. It's kind of like a blanket. Once you have it around you, you feel comfortable with it.

INSKEEP: It's a good thing he feels comfortable since governments and companies are buying so much more security equipment. The customers prowling this floor include two campus police officers from the University of Maryland. The college cops already have military-style rifles and they're listening to a gun salesman who is offering something different.

Unidentified Man #1: We have now come out with a pump-action patrol rifle.

Unidentified Man #2: Less aggressive looking.

Unidentified Man #1: That's exactly right, which is what you want to do.

INSKEEP: You gentlemen mind saying your names just so we have them.

Mr. SHAWN ELLIOTT (Campus Police, University of Maryland): Shawn Elliott, University of Maryland police.

INSKEEP: And you're...

Mr. RICHARD INGETUWA(ph) (Campus Police, University of Maryland): Richard Ingetuwa, University of Maryland police.

INSKEEP: And just so I know. You say that you have AR-15s, which is the equivalent of the--of a rifle an American soldier might use. What is the circumstance under which, if ever, that you had to use that at the University of Maryland?

Mr. ELLIOTT: Not yet. The possibility is there.

INSKEEP: Since nobody knows what might happen, it's hard to say no to more security. And homeland security consultant Joshua Snyder(ph) expects that private companies will be required to buy even more.

Mr. JOSHUA SNYDER (Homeland Security Consultant): Because if you look at the critical infrastructure, which is now owned by commercial firms, whether it's chemical plants, etc., one can easily see the government's going to come in and establish standards for security. Right now, for example, the airline industry spends $6 billion a year on security. I think the government's going to end up doing it to other industries that also need to raise their level of security.

(Soundbite of a machine operating)

Unidentified Woman: Please enter.

INSKEEP: Some companies are buying machines like this one on the convention floor. It looks like an oversized metal detector. It detects traces of explosives by sniffing.

(Soundbite of a machine operating)

Unidentified Woman: Firing jets.

INSKEEP: OK, I've just been sprayed with a bunch of air jets. There's an indication that it's thinking...

Unidentified Woman: Please exit.

INSKEEP: Oh, please exit, it says.

(Soundbite of a device firing)

INSKEEP: OK, we heard some firing, some explosions across the convention floor. Couldn't see what was happening because of all the display booths in the way, so we're now trying to chase down that sound. OK, we're coming upon an area--concrete floor that's been cleared off and is relatively open except for the two dead bodies laying in the middle. They would be, actually, mannequins. These mannequins are as heavy as real people and help police officers practice dragging victims away from a shooting. And with a tiny light shoved in the chamber of a pistol, people like Maryland Police Officer Keith Brett(ph) can also practice opening fire.

Officer KEITH BRETT (Maryland): It's called a `bull light.'(ph)

INSKEEP: A `bull light'?

Officer BRETT: This is just for practice shooting.

(Soundbite of trigger being pulled several times)

INSKEEP: It fires a little beam of light?

Officer BRETT: Exactly, a laser.

INSKEEP: You just shot me about seven times.

Officer BRETT: You can see it. I see it--exactly.

INSKEEP: At this recent convention, business people were hoping that displays like this improve their chances of hitting their sales targets. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.