Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Los Angeles' urban railway is the first in the nation to roll out body scanners to protect passengers.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, known as the Metro, serving 9.6 million people -- nearly a third of California's residents -- rolled out the body scanners at a media event at Union Station on Tuesday, Metro said in its blog.
More of the devices will be rolled out across the transit system, though officials did not provide specific dates.
The body scanners are high-security devices designed to screen passengers for improvised explosive devices or other weapons that could be intended to cause mass-casualty attacks.
Officers can watch a feed from the scanning device, provided by British company Thruvision, on a laptop. From 30 feet away, the devices can scan more than 2,000 passengers an hour and spot items such as concealed weapons and suicide vests.
The LA Metro and Transportation Security Administration said in a joint statement the Metro is the first in the nation to purchase the body scanners.
"The device allows law enforcement agents and Metro Security to screen rail and bus patrons without disrupting foot traffic and to take decisive, preemptive action if suspicious items are found," the joint statement said.
Officials have said the body scanners will be non-intrusive, explaining in the joint statement they operate by identifying objects that block "naturally-occurring waves" produced by someone's body.
"When an object is hidden in clothing or strapped to a person, these waves are blocked and detected by the system's software," it further explained. "The software generates generic avatars and creates either a black spot on the area of the body where the item is concealed or overlays a color indicator. The technology does not emit radiation of any kind and no anatomical details are displayed."
The Metro tested several types of body scanners in a pilot program last year to evaluate their accuracy and capacity.
"Most people won't even know they're being scanned, so there's no risk of them missing their train service on a daily basis," Dave Sotero, an LA Metro spokesman, told The New York Times.
However, Brian D. Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The Times transit passengers are more likely to be victims of personal crimes than terrorist attacks and raised concern about delays if the scanners possibly trigger a false alarm.
"Someone has to intervene, stop that person and check out what's going on," Taylor said. "That causes delay, and it also causes a sense of invasiveness among the passengers."
In December, a failed suicide bombing on a busy New York subway corridor in killed no one and seriously injured only the suspect, a 27-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh, Akayed Ullah, authorities said.