Bombs at the finish line: what’s next?

T he month of April was precarious to say the least. We as a country are still reeling from the bombing in Boston, the images of chaos and bags filled with runners’ unclaimed belonging at the finish line still fresh in our memories.

As of 6:00 a.m. Wednesday, May 1, a whopping 70 percent of people surveyed in a Washington Post-ABC News poll said they support the death penalty for 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. That discussion may be premature at this point, but a number like 70 percent reflects the collective fury and intolerance we have for this level of violence in the U.S.

Men and women in public safety: as if you don’t already have enough to deal with, add terrorist attacks to your list of things to train for. But you already know that. The days of law enforcement as security, patrolling a stadium mainly for isolated incidents of disorderly conduct, are gone. Across the board, public safety professionals and city managers are thinking more strategically about football games and racing events. Every level of defense is interested in finding ways to better protect soft targets from serious threats.

Mark Lang, a Texas SWAT vet and Craft International instructor, talks about the role of police snipers in public venues on page 24. Lang encourages agencies to reach out to local venue managers and explain the value of live-fire training before something happens. “If those snipers are not allowed to fire in the venue they are being deployed in, they are not being set up for success,” says Lang.

It’s not all about defense strategies, either. Police in Boston are already thinking about how they can beef up security systems and utilize new technologies to ensure the 2014 marathon is safe.

Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis watched Tsarnaev plant the wired satchel on the ground via CCTV cameras. The footage helped lead to Tsarnaev’s timely arrest. It will be interesting to learn how Boston’s operations evolve in light of the recent attack going forward.

The more streamlined our security operations in public places—sporting events, yes...but schools and businesses, too—the more we give pause to masterminds (and puppets of masterminds, and hacks) bent on harm. Boots-on-the-ground patrol have as much responsibility, and can make as much a difference, as the best analytic surveillance systems available to cities.

Careful training and smart technology are, and will always be, a great first line of defense. And I believe pre-planning can be a powerful deterrent.

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