Business Matters: Crystal Company Develops System to Disrupt Active Shooters
It’s a grim topic that has shaken our country all too often: from Sandy Hook, Conn., in 2012 to Parkland, Fla., in 2018 to just this month in El Paso, Tex., and Dayton, Ohio. Mass shootings have become all too commonplace, but a Crystal business has an uncommon way to address them.
“There’s nothing inside a building to protect the in-house responders,” said Jody Allen Crowe, a former school administrator who has studied school shootings.
Vivid Memories as a Fifth Grader
Crowe believes shootings like these can be disrupted and casualties prevented. For him, it’s personal.
“October 1966,” Crowe rattled off.
He was in the fifth grade in Grand Rapids, Minn., at the time.
“A kid brought a gun to school, into the junior high-high school, he shot another student who’s actually right outside the building,” said Crowe about that date, “and a school administrator said ‘give me the gun.’ He turned the gun on the administrator and killed him.”
That event would stay with him through his career as a school administrator.
“When I became a school administrator, I often thought when I had to approach kids with weapons, am I going to be the next Forest L. Willey?” said Crowe.
Willey was the administrator killed. It’s why Crowe’s second act became a mission turned business venture. He teamed up with engineers, business experts, even a former New York city police detective to form Crotega.
“We are the only company out there that has an actual assailant suppression system,” said Crowe about Crotega, which is derived from his last name and tega, a Latin word for shield.
“Invisible SWAT Team in the Ceiling”
Crotega’s patented threat suppression system uses artificial intelligence to detect weapons. It needs an actual person to verify. That person uses a touchscreen to deploy a water-based chemical similar to tear gas.
“I tell people, imagine getting a gallon of vinegar dumped over your head,” said Crowe. “You can’t handle the breathing in. It causes involuntarily eye closure, it stings the skin.”
The spray goes off in short bursts.
“All the evidence of the tests that we have here, which show that somebody under the spray of our system, is not going to go much more than 30 or 40 feet inside of a building before they’re incapacitated,” said Crowe.
The chemical also won’t hinder the work of first responders once the system finishes spraying. Think of it like a fire suppression system. Crowe compares it to an “invisible SWAT team in the ceiling.”
The system costs about $100,000 to equip a typical school entrance. Crowe says his technology has interest from schools across the country, including schools right here in the Twin Cities area. He believes his system can save lives and even save money, when you consider how costly existing security measures at schools and businesses can be.
“It’s effective. It’s very effective,” he said.