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DHS and local police test nuclear detection technology at the Belmont Stakes

SORDS at the Belmont

DHS tested three new types of nuclear detection systems aimed at protecting wide areas and traffic at the Belmont Stakes horserace the weekend of June 11 .

The DHS Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO), along with local law enforcement tested the technology to see if it was effective in protecting large events from dirty bombs or other types of radiological weapons. DHS said there was no specific threat to the venue, but the large crowds and wide-open spaces at the event offered an opportunity to test the new technologies in real-world situations.

The Belmont Stakes is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown race series that includes The Preakness in Baltimore, MD and the Kentucky Derby, held in Louisville. It typically draws over 100,000 people to Belmont Park in upstate New York, although it is usually surpassed in attendance by the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

At large events, DNDO and local police typically use handheld or backpack detectors obtained through homeland security grant funding or through DNDO “Securing the Cities” grant program, according to a June 15 DHS blog posting on the tests.

DNDO tested three prototype detection systems at the race to gauge their potential for future use in securing the bigger areas surrounding large-scale events to prevent a dirty bomb from being smuggled into the vicinity. Two of the systems were Stand-Off Radiation Detection Systems (SORDS), designed to detect and identify radiation sources from a mobile platform at a long distance. The other was the Roadside Tracker (RST), which is designed to detect and identify sources of illicit materials in vehicles traveling at speed over multiple lanes of traffic.

 The RST unit was set up to scan vehicles moving in several lanes of traffic for radiological and nuclear threats, said DNDO.

The Securing the Cities program began in New York City with an agreement with the NYC Police Department in 2006, but has expanded to other major metropolitan regions, said DHS. The NYPD received the initial grant money, but distributes it to other participating agencies, according to DHS.