Skills in detecting gun carrying from CCTV

Gun crime is an increasingly common occurrence in the UK. An ongoing research programme is investigating the ability of humans to detect whether or not an individual, captured on CCTV, is carrying a firearm. In the present study we argue that observers respond to cues which individuals inherently produce whilst carrying a concealed firearm. These cues might be reflected in the body language of those carrying firearms and might be apprehended by observers at a conscious or subconscious level. Simulated CCTV footage was generated of individuals who acted as surveillance targets and who carried, concealed on their persons, either firearms or matched innocuous objects. Trained CCTV operators and lay people then viewed this footage and were asked to indicate whether or not they thought the surveillance target was carrying a firearm. The size of the influence of carrying a firearm on a surveillance target’s anxiety level was found to be related to the number of times that individual was deemed to be carrying a firearm. However, the surveillance target’s anxiety level was not related to sensitivity in firearm detection. Additionally, a test of body language decoding ability did not show that the body language reading skills of observers were related to ability to detect a concealed firearm. These initial results provide some insight into the potential for using a surveillance target’s body language to determine if they are concealing a weapon and whether or not such an ability can be acquired through surveillance training and experience.