PARAMUS, N.J. – With multiple entrances, limited security and lots of victims, America's shopping malls (search) are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
Now, a new program using advanced surveillance cameras and computer technology could make malls, schools and airports much safer without inconveniencing the law-abiding public.
A system being tested at Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., looks for certain patterns of behavior or unusual activity, such as someone going the wrong way up an escalator, or bags left unattended for too long.
It monitors movement in parking lots and looks for anyone who may be trying to steal or break into a vehicle. If the system detects suspicious behavior, it can set off a variety of alarms to alert local security or police, who can monitor the cameras from headquarters or from vehicles responding to the scene.
"The majority of police agencies in the United States are small ... so any way that we could find to better deploy our resources that we can identify where we need to place our people is going to be quite helpful," said Lt. James Sheehan of the Paramus Police Department (search).
The system's creators plan to put it in schools, as well. They say if it had been installed at Columbine (search) High School in Littletown, Colo., for example, police could have known exactly where the two shooters were during their 1999 rampage, and might have been able to save lives and rescue the wounded much sooner than they did.
"We're creating extra eyes. We're creating extra ears. We're even creating extra brains with an intelligent system like this," said Don Sebastian of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, who helped create the test project and who hopes it will expand across the state and country.
The technology is also being used to monitor traffic in tunnels and on highways, looking for erratic lane changes or dangerous moves, able to zoom in on license plates and identify the driver if necessary. The system is said to get "smarter" the more it's used, and in this case, according to the creators, smarter equals safer.
Click on the video box above for a complete report by FOX News' Rick Leventhal.