Security for the masses

Mel Gedruj
Friday December 01, 2017
Written by Mel Gedruj
Stadiums, concert halls and other large popular venues have experienced their own share of security events.

Recall the soccer stadium and concert hall terror attacks in Paris, November 2015 resulting in hundreds of casualties. How about, more recently, the tragic Las Vegas open air music concert massacre with its toll of 58 dead and more than 500 injured — it was deemed the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.

In Europe, they have contended with soccer problems for decades. The 1985 European Cup final played by Juventus of Italy and Liverpool of England at the Heysel stadium in Brussels, ended with a stampede caused by hooligans. It resulted in 39 fatalities and 600 injured, the majority of whom were visiting Italian fans. It took a long time for police investigators to understand that all of this hooligan activity was in fact organized and not random at all. They began segregating opposing teams when entering the stadium and alcohol sales were not allowed. Hooligans drank copiously and over many hours prior to a given soccer game. The problem lingered for years and still does, as witnessed in France in the summer of 2016 where the beautiful city of Marseille’s “Old Port” area was turned into a battlefield. British Police intelligence was able to identify leaders and developed a database of pictures and information updated on a regular basis which they shared with their European colleagues, but to no avail. What happened next was that the disturbances migrated from stadiums to city streets.

Aside from the wave of urban terrorist attacks reported frequently in the news, soccer riots are the second headache for security and law enforcement personnel across the pond. While we may consider ourselves lucky that alcohol is served in our sports venues with seldom any nasty consequences, I am reminded of the riots after Vancouver‘s Stanley Cup games (1994 and 2011) and Montreal’s (2010).

Whether it’s a mass shooting or a terrorist attack, every undesirable event causes us to ask the same question again and again: could it have been prevented? As I have stated in previous columns, we are constantly reacting to the latest tragedy and attempting to bring controls that we surmise will reduce the likelihood of the next one, yet they keep on happening, even in the most unlikely places. Consider the recent Texas church shooting in a town of 600 people! What can we do? It seems that private security alone cannot deal with these threats on its own.

I don’t have an answer and I don’t see too many who do. Maybe it is time to raise awareness among citizens that they should be more attentive to their surroundings? A risk-free life would require drastic measures involving establishing total dictatorial control over society. This is an unthinkable solution in democracies. What else then? For terrorism, intelligence must be the main focus along with the available legal tools. As with organized crime, infiltration (recall the famous FBI agent Joe Pistone aka Donnie Brasco), disruption and going after the “big fish.”

In the U.S., it meant using the RICO statute to bring down the heads of criminal organizations. In Italy, finances provided the tools to bring down entire networks.

As for mass shootings and the European soccer hooliganism scourge, the solutions are less obvious. They may require vast multidisciplinary involvement from mental health to law enforcement, but clearly prevention seems elusive. Maybe improving response time to reduce the casualty count? We saw that in a recent attack on public transit in the U.K. where first responders were on the scene in record time. The long and short of it all is there is much work to be done.

This is my last column for Canadian Security magazine. I take this opportunity to thank both Neil Sutton and Paul Grossinger for having given me valuable space in their premier publication and allowed me the editorial freedom to explore a few municipal security matters.  

Mel Gedruj, OAA, CSPM is the president of V2PM Inc., specialized in municipal security management planning.
More in this category: « Storm clouds ahead

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