By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In the wake of numerous school shootings across the Unites States, a Twin Cities security company believes it is time we treat actual buildings as weapons to fight back.

Crotega has created the Sentre security system. It sprays an irritant from a schools’ ceiling to stop a shooter.

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WCCO got an inside look at Crotega’s test facility, where educators, security experts and engineers are ready to offer a different solution to school violence.

An office park in Crystal houses the simulator where Crotega investor Jim Lubratt wonders when a parent last worried about a fire at their child’s school.

“We don’t today because buildings are designed with an automatic fire suppression system,” Lubratt said. “This is an automated shooter suppression system.”

The Sentre system kicks in by either the push of a button or the sound of gunshots in a school.

Both will trigger an alarm to a two-button touchscreen where you can see what is happening on school surveillance, giving someone the option then to deploy a spray.

A demo of the Sentre system’s touch screen controls (credit: Crotega/YouTube)

“We’re actually arming our schools with what I call ‘invisible SWAT teams in the ceiling,'” said Crotega founder Jody Allen Crowe.

The goal of the spray is to deter, disrupt and delay the shooter before sending someone in to tackle them. If innocent people are sprayed, it washes off with water.

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“It forces eye closure, it stings your eyes,” Lubratt said. “It’s extremely irritating. It does smell.”

It is a concept Crowe created in his garage after watching the terror unfold at Sandy Hook Elementary School six years ago. As a long-time principal, Crowe believed the time had come to move beyond a gun debate.

“It’s that simple,” he said.

Crowe is convinced his system would have also made a difference in Florida.

“As soon as that first gunshot would’ve went off, people inside of the building would have known exactly where he was at, would have been able to deploy exactly in that zone of threat,” he said.

Fire codes will not allow the system to be hooked up to sprinklers, so this is a completely different line in a ceilings’ grid.

The idea would be to get several systems in a school to be able to deploy from zone to zone, which would cost about $100,000.

Trade reviews say this is really the first time schools will be able to take surveillance and actually do something with it in real-time with that two-button system.

The system is brand new and is not in any schools at this point. Crotega just completed an 18-month test run in one Twin Cities school.

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The company is currently working with some casinos in Las Vegas to ramp up their security.

Liz Collin