TODAY   |  April 23, 2013

Rossen Reports: Law’s new weapon against terror

As the nation reels from the Boston Marathon bombings, police are beginning to make use of cutting-edge technology that could help officers spot a bomb before it goes off. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 7:42 with a "rossen reports" exclusive in the wake of the boston bombings. new sophisticated tools used by police that may help protect us from future attacks. "today" national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is in boston . good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you. it's really amazing what they can do. i look forward to showing you some of the demonstrations. here in boston we saw how important the video surveillance cameras are, after the attacks did not take long to identify the suspects. what if those cameras were so high tech they could pick out a bomb hidden on the street before it goes off, as you're about to see the future is now. watch this man. he drops a bag on the ground, then walks away. what if it was a bomb, could officers spot it? now the nypd can, in seconds, using new cutting edge technology.

>> the system gives the officers an alert, it says it's an abandoned package at the chrysler building .

>> reporter: it gives you an image own circles the package.

>> shows you where the package was left.

>> reporter: it's called artificial intelligence , software that turns surveillance cameras into smart cameras, so smart the computer learns what normal behavior looks like on every corner, and can spot abnormalities instantly from abandoned packages to suspicious activity, alerting police in real time . how effective has it been?

>> we've had 16 plots against the city since september 11th and none have succeeded.

>> reporter: what if the suspects are in a car? the nypd showed us in this simulation a vehicle on the watch list entered the city. special cameras are tracking them, reading thousands of license plates every second.

>> our cameras just spotted the vehicle on the west side highway , not only do we know where the car is, we get two pictures in real time of that vehicle. in addition, it will show us every place where that license plate has been scanned before in our system going back as long as we have data.

>> reporter: these cameras can even pick suspects out of a crowd based on the shirt they're wearing. let's say it's red. each of the city's 4,000 cameras can hone in and pull all the red shirts out.

>> it gives individuals who want to think about attacking some food for thought .

>> reporter: john frazzini is a former secret service agent now selling smart technology from agencies from houston to san francisco . while no one knows if it would have prevented the bombings in boston , officials say this technology is the future. do you think this can change the face of law enforcement ?

>> this is changing the face of law enforcement . catching these events before they happen is the name of the game .

>> reporter: boston police do not have this technology yet but told us late last night right now everything is on the table. police officials say this technology by no means doesn't replace police officers on the streets patrolling, they say it is just a tool to help them and if anything else the reason they wanted to us share this with you at home is because they're hoping it's a deterrent to terrorists we'll catch you before you strike.

>> jeff rossen , thank you very