New Concepts in Crowd Control

Crowd control is a process that has no singular purpose, goal, set of conditions or even similarities that call for a singular set of plans or responses. Even crowds at entertainment and sports venues, where participants have paid quite a lot of money and are expecting to be treated as valued guests in a pleasurable setting, can be vastly different from event to event.

The businesses that sell riot gear, stanchions, crowd regulation mazes and entry screening systems gather and analyze a wide range of information in order to develop appropriate solutions and to make profitable products.

New methods of handling and directing crowd traffic include portable and customizable mazes, barriers and stanchions. There is special event signage assist in directing crowds to the area of interest or to their seats, rather than to have milling and lost crowds.

Much is being learned from the recent Wal Mart “Black Thursday” promotions, where there was little or no preparation or preventive planning to control an overexcited and aggressive mob of customers who were piled up at the entrances to stores.

Some extra security, some mazes of barriers and stanchions, and even handing out cards for controlled entry on a first come, first served basis would have easily prevented tragedy.

From prison riots to bar fights that progress into the streets, there are crowd control situations that can occur with shocking surprise and speed in just about every situation these days.

As a result, crowd control programs require detailed knowledge of the type of situation, taking in and reviewing information from all who are involved, and determining if and when there are common factors in crowd situations. The participants have much to say about how they are treated, the behavior of the security or law enforcement personnel, and the events which lead up to incidents of out of control behavior.

Training of law enforcement and security personnel in sensitivity to the residents of neighborhoods and to the guests at various venues, along with analysis of past events helps to plan for current and future events of the same type. The styles and methods for these processes are becoming more refined and formalized.

The latest “last resorts” in crowd control include new non lethal crowd control technologies involving manipulation of light, sound, water pressure, concussion, magnetic fields, electrical shocks and even simply grossly annoying items, such as “stench bullets”. There is even experimentation with a device that makes the pavement impossibly slippery, called “instant banana peel”. 

 There is no end to creativity in designing substances, delivery systems and projectiles that are designed to incapacitate, drug, disorient, or otherwise handicap, rather than to injure or kill.

A new non lethal weapon that uses powerful sonic waves can actually affect the mood and feelings of crowds in order to control them. But, the new entertainment sound systems, especially for large concerts, are being tweaked to do the same.

It would also make sense that jamming communications on a selective basis would help when well organized public disruptions are planned and executed.

The military, event planners, city and regional planners, and academics constantly make studies of crowd control situations. The newest tools in crowd behavior are tested with the goal of not only controlling civilian crowds, but of reducing lethality on the battlefield and in prisons. Data, statements, visual records and other information from real events is available for study, analysis and planning.

Finally, there are computer simulations that allow highly realistic “what if” analysis of a vast array of scenarios for specific locations and venues. Crowd dynamics, behavioral characteristics, and vast amount of data can be used to design and execute models of the crowd dynamic process.

MIT Press: Sonic Warfare

Yale Forums: “Non Lethal Weapons A New Hot Pursuit?”

“Crowd Control Simulation In a Java Based Environment”