RICHMOND, Va. — New equipment will be tested around Capitol Square next year that can detect weapons and explosives in crowded areas. 

The Virginia Division of Capitol Police is partnering with the Atlanta-based security company Liberty Defense to test out a new device called HEXWAVE.

HEXWAVE uses imaging technology and artificial intelligence to identify both metal and non-metal weapons. It can work inside or outside of a building with large groups of people walking through it. When something is found, authorities at the location are notified. The technology only looks for weapons and does not use facial recognition. 

Sometime next February, March or April the company will set it up nearby one of the current metal detectors used by Capitol Police to compare its effectiveness, Capitol Police spokesperson Joe Macenka said. 

The technology is a prototype and the company wants a high volume area to test it out. It won’t cost Virginia taxpayers anything for the company to do the tests. 

Visitors are screened at a number of state buildings. In Virginia, citizens can bring a gun into legislative buildings, like the Pocahontas building where lawmakers’ offices are located, and the Capitol if they have a concealed carry permit.

Capitol Police Chief Col. Anthony S. Pike says officers will check for proper identification and the concealed carry ID before letting someone in.

This makes Virginia’s Capitol grounds a prime location to test out the new technology.  

With more upgrades, Col. Pike sees an opportunity for a piece of technology like HEXWAVE to be incorporated into a building lockdown system. 

“That would definitely change that type of scenario and how it’s managed on the initial onset from a law enforcement perspective,” Col. Pike explained. “Especially if you have an active shooter type scenario.”

Conversations about upgrading and modernizing security around the Capitol have been going on for years. Right now, work is being done around the Executive Mansion, where the governor and their family lives, to make it more secure from Governor’s Street. This is one of many security projects being planned by the state around the Capitol grounds. 

“It’s so important for folks to feel safe when they come to the seat of government. It’s where our democracy starts,” Col. Pike said.

The partnership between Capitol Police and HEXWAVE has been in talks for at least a year. Utah’s Attorney General announced in May that the state is working with the company as well.