Rutgers University has been awarded a grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) alongside nine other universities aiming to mitigate criminal attacks on soft targets such as schools, hospitals, shopping malls and sports stadiums.

The DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate will provide $3.6 million for the first year of a 10-year grant to fund the new Center of Excellence for Engineering Secure Environments from Targeted Attacks (ESE).

“Researching and developing science and technology solutions to combat emerging threats is a top priority for DHS,” DHS Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement. “The new Center of Excellence will provide improved access to high-quality, university-led research and education resources for the department and the broader homeland security enterprise, while at the same time training our nation’s next generation of homeland security leaders.”

At the new center on the New Jersey campus, Rutgers investigators will conduct research on real-time threat detection and mitigation, advanced sensing and risk-assessment prediction and deterrence.

Project tests will be conducted in the Living Labs at Richard Weeks Hall at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and a field living lab, DataCity Smart Mobility Testing Ground funded by Middlesex County and the New Jersey Department of Transportation, utilizing an interconnected digital infrastructure and state of the art high-resolution sensing, computing and 5G communication technologies.

“Through this center, we will have access to experiment with crowd management and security procedures on the extensive campus bus system, lecture halls and dining halls, the campus movie theater and concert venues, and other facilities,” Roberts added. “What we learn from using Rutgers as a ‘living lab’ will provide ideas that can be extended to hundreds of thousands of soft targets and crowded places that the new center will work to protect.”