Lawsuit questions weapons-scanning technology in place at PNC Park, Kennywood and more

A federal lawsuit is questioning weapons-scanning technology in place at popular parks and event centers like PNC Park, Acrisure Stadium and Kennywood Park.

The technology was already in place at Kennywood in September 2022 when three people were shot. There is no evidence though that a gun entered the park through a secure entrance that day.

The park is among a list of Pittsburgh staples that have made investments in new technology in the last several years, specifically buying scanners created by Evolv Technology, based out of Massachusetts.

The company’s Evolv Express is a touchless security screening system that utilizes artificial intelligence. It is designed to detect guns, knives and explosives while learning to ignore other metal items like cellphones.

Channel 11 has confirmed the technology is in use at Kennywood Park, PNC Park, Acrisure Stadium, the Benedum Center, Byham Theater, Heinz Hall and O’Reilly Theatre.

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The technology is marketed as an upgrade to traditional metal detectors. The scanners allow multiple people to walk through at once, without stopping or emptying their pockets.

Channel 11 spoke to a company executive in the fall of 2022, around the time Acrisure Stadium announced it would begin using the technology.

“In the past you were choosing safety over speed,” said Evolv Technology Vice President of Sports John Baier.” Now with Evolv, you can have safety and speed at the same time without compromising safety.”

Evolv shareholders filed a federal class action lawsuit against the company last week, stating it lied about how reliable its weapons-detection technologies are.

The lawsuit, first uncovered by Court Watch, said in Evolv’s 2021, 2022 and 2023 annual reports, the company made claims that its technology was “…designed to quickly detect firearms, improvised explosive devices, and large tactical knives...”

The lawsuit disputes that claim though calling it, “materially false and misleading” because “it overstated Evolv Express’ capabilities.”

The lawsuit also pointed to statements in Evolv Technology’s risk disclosure stating in part, “If our products fail or are perceived to fail to detect and prevent attacks or if our products fail to identify and respond to new and increasingly complex and unpredictable methods of attacks, our business and reputation may suffer.”

The lawsuit said the statements were “materially false and misleading” because the company “couched the failure of its products in hypothetical terms, when in reality the Company knew that its products were ineffective at detecting weapons, including knives and certain types of firearms.

Further, the Company had taken significant action to make it appear that its products were effective, including manipulating test results.”

According to the lawsuit, the SEC launched an investigation into the company in February.

Channel 11 reached out to Evolv Technology requesting comment on the claims in the lawsuit.

“Our policy is not to comment on pending litigation.  We stand behind our technology and are proud to partner with hundreds of security professionals around the world as part of their safety plan,” a company spokesperson said via email Monday.

The lawsuit also cites a BBC article and an unredacted report by the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. It explains the organization’s public report on Evolv Express rated it 2.84 out of 3.00 but said that was after revisions and redactions at the company’s request.

The lawsuit said the unredacted version shows Evolv “failed to meet testing criteria for detection of micro-compact pistols, with only a 92% detection rate, whereas a conventional metal detector would alert on this pistol virtually 100% of the time. Such firearms are increasingly popular according to industry data, representing 25% of 9mm handgun sales.”

In regards to the detection of knives, the lawsuit said “Results were so poor that evaluators said they ‘Recommend full-transparency to potential customers based on data collected.’”

The lawsuit also mentions a stabbing a New York School in 2022. It claims the school’s Evolv weapons-scanners failed to detect a nine inch knife using in the stabbing. It goes on to say three other knives were found since the stabbing, all reported to staff – not because the weapons scanner detected them.

WPXI reached out to the seven local vendors we confirmed use the technology. There could be more we are unaware of.

Two organizations provided statements.

Heinz Hall management wrote “Safety and security at Heinz Hall are a top priority. We are not familiar with this lawsuit nor its claims. We will be investigating the claims and monitoring the outcome of the lawsuit. To our knowledge, the Evolv system has performed as expected.”

The Pittsburgh Steelers did not comment on the litigation but wrote “Our goal is to always provide our fans a safe environment and will continue to work on improving those measures however we deem appropriate.”

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