Keeping 350K Anime Expo Attendees Safe

Keeping 350K Anime Expo Attendees Safe

The Anime Expo (AX), an annual celebration of all things “Anime,” is one of the largest conventions of its type in North America; in fact, its size and popularity of AX has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in 1991, from about 10,000 people to more than 350,000.

For years, AX – formally known as Anime Con – earned the unfortunate nickname of “line-con” due to massive crowds that formed just to gain entrance, which meant headaches for security and operations staff.

Thanks to a unique combination of weapons screening technology, guard and canine services, and temporary security technology – all coordinated by security firm Sentinel Consulting – AX 2022 was a rousing success. The project has been named has been named as an honorable mention in the 2022 Security Vanguard Awards from SecurityInfoWatch, Security Business magazine and Security Technology Executive (STE) magazine.

The Crowd Control Challenge
Based on turnstiles at the entrances, more than 110,000 people attended the Anime Expo over the three days at multiple venues, including the Los Angeles Convention Center, Novo (an indoor club), and the Microsoft Theater.

Efficient screening was the first challenge for Michael Grossman, a senior advisor at New York City-based Sentinel
Photo: Anime Expo
A carefully crafted screening strategy helped was part of a successful crowd control effort at the 2022 Anime Expo in Los Angeles.
A carefully crafted screening strategy helped was part of a successful crowd control effort at the 2022 Anime Expo in Los Angeles.
Consulting, who was responsible for all security planning and operations, including the preparation of a comprehensive operations plan and the management of the overall on- site security operations.

A massive crowd is one thing, but the vast majority of these attendees came to the AX venues in full costumes – many including imitation weapons. The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA), the event organizer, also required COVID-19 checkpoints.

“We were getting people into the buildings, but the crowding on the outside [creates] a soft target,” explains Matthew Thomas, SPJA’s senior director of operations.

Thankfully, Grossman and the Sentinel team came up with a multi-faceted solution, combining high-throughput weapons screening technology with good, old-fashioned security officers – provided by Ayvar Security, JRM Security and Executive Event Services – and canine teams from MSA Security Services, a division of Allied Universal. Additionally, RFID badging implemented at the show helped with counting attendees and protected against people getting in without the proper credentials.

“It is not all high-tech, but when you use all those things to your advantage and integrate their use, that makes a system more efficient and there are a lot fewer problems,” Grossman says.

As for the technology aspect of the crowd control technology, Thomas and Grossman zeroed in on the Evolv Express, a high-throughput walk-through weapons screening system that uses digital sensors and artificial intelligence to spot concealed weapons and other threats.

The company claims a unit can screen 4,000 people per hour, and that the technology has been successfully used at stadiums, theme parks, hospitals, schools and other busy venues. Ideally, the technology is accurate enough that people are not required to stop, empty their pockets or remove bags as they are screened.

2022 was the first year that AX used the screening technology, and Thomas – who held previous security operations roles at Universal Studios and Westfield malls – says it enhanced the throughput of patrons from 55 people per hour to 300 people per hour at each entry point.

“Honestly, I think it was a little too quick, and we slowed that down on site just to be very thorough,” Thomas admits. “That was due to my thinking that it is impossible. I am used to the metal detector going off on every belt buckle.”

Achieving Situational Awareness
Grossman – who retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2013 as chief of the Homeland Security Division and later served as SVP of U.S. National Security for Westfield Corp., where he oversaw security operations for 32 malls across the nation – assembled a security command center at AX that coordinated the activities of all security and life safety agencies, including convention center security and private contractors, Los Angeles Police Department, and many others.

Through the assistance of Las Vegas-based Unified Command, a temporary surveillance system was also deployed, with cameras placed at strategic locations to maintain situational awareness at key points throughout the venue. The temporary system focused on areas outside the venues, since the buildings had their own cameras.

“We were working with the existing Convention Center security with their technology and adding on our technology to compliment,” Thomas says. “That really helps us get good angles to manage crowds and respond to certain things from the [security monitoring] perspective.”

Those working in the Unified Command post could monitor cameras, zoom in on nearly any area or focus on certain cameras. “They know exactly the things that need to be seen and where to put cameras,” Grossman says, adding that the command post at AX was similar to one that he might set up for a large wildfire or other major event.

“You have representatives from all the agencies that do security or emergency response in the same room and monitor for 24 hours a day through the entire event,” he explains. “If you don’t have adequate planning, and documented planning, a clear organizational chart, clear lines of communication, and contingency plans, [if] something comes up, it is pretty tough to manage,” Grossman says.

In reviewing the successful AX 2022 security operations, Thomas says “the secret sauce is there right now” to maintain an effective security program for AX in the future. As for similar events, he implores event security managers to take advantage of all the technology and tools available, even if the cost is hard to swallow.

“All it could take is one situation, and you no longer have an event anymore,” Thomas says. “I like spending a bunch of money on security…because [it means] we’ve done the most that we can to protect everybody.”

John Dobberstein is managing editor of

Project Overview: Anime Expo

Project submitted by: Sentinel Consulting

Weapons Screening: Evolv Technology

Temporary Surveillance System: Unified Command

Video Management System: Milestone

Guard Services: Ayvar Security, JRM Security and Executive Event Services

Canine Services: MSA Security Services

This article is part of the annual Security Vanguard Awards, presented by, Security Business magazine and Security Technology Executive (STE) magazine. Learn more about the Vanguard and its many winners over the years at

Article Link –

More from this category

Let's Talk

Contact us now for a FREE, NO OBLIGATION security consultation with an experienced protection professional. Just provide your information using the form below, or call us at 888-793-9380 and a member of our team will contact you within 24 hours.