Kamloops Matters: A Kamloops professor and his student are working to help police stop lone wolf attacks

It started with the mass shooting in Las Vegas.

That’s when Thompson Rivers University computer science associate professor Andrew Park started to look into creating a system which would help police analyze a location for potential so-called ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks.

“The idea is, why couldn’t we prevent this kind of terrible attack?” Park tells KamloopsMatters. “Basically what we do is we are developing a system of locations from where lone-wolf terrorists may possibly attack, so we can take preventative actions to protect innocent citizens.”

He’s been working on the project, which uses 3D simulations and predictive algorithms, for a couple years with the help of students from Mitacs Globalink, a Canadian not-for-profit internship program which helps line up international students with research positions in Canada for a summer. This year Park is working with Karthik Vedantham, a 20-year-old computer sciences student from India.

“Every year Mitacs recruits intelligent students from other countries,” Park says. “Students apply for the projects that they’re interested in and Canadian professors have options to interview with them.”

“I chose Karthik as my intern.”

After Vedantham was selected, he came to Canada and has been working on the project with Park for two and a half months. While Park has been working on it for a couple years, including with another Mitacs Globaink student from Tunisia, the hope is to have it done before Vedantham goes home in early August.

So far it’s coming along well. Vedantham says the goal is to make the program usable for police to reconstruct a location as a 3D model and analyze that for spots a lone wolf might hide or strike from.

“They can select an area, like a concert, as a protection target,” Vedantham says. “In this way police can figure out what possible locations an attack might come from.”

It can be customized to select from different types of weapons.

Ideally, the program could be used to better predict situations and cut down on costs, Park says. Organizations could also train police or security people without taking them to the site, which would be useful for events like the Olympics.

“This isn’t just an academic project; we’re showing this to police officers,” he says. “We hope that this kind of project can be used by practitioners to be used for real events and real investigations.”

He adds that as the program is worked on, it could be developed to cover moving events (parades or motorcades), be used in real-time at events and work with virtual reality headsets to created augmented reality systems.

“The type of work that we’re trying to do hasn’t been done before,” Vedantham says. “There’s been one before, but we’re doing it on a much larger scale.”