Police on heightened alert in wake of Boston bombings
In the wake of Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, local law enforcement will have a heightened sense of security at large events scheduled to take place in the area.
With Spring Daze and the Memorial Day parade just around the corner, Thomasville Police Chief Jeff Insley said citizens may be asked to make certain concessions as officers try to ensure public safety.
“There are certain things we may have to put in play,” Insley said. “You want everyone to have a good time and you want them to enjoy themselves but we may have to limit certain things like backpacks and coolers.”
Police departments across the country started receiving more intelligence from federal authorities in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Following Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured more than 170, Insley said his department will pay extra attention to any information coming down the federal pipeline.
“We’ll probably scrutinize things a little more closely, making sure we listen to the Intel briefs coming from the federal folks just to see if there’s anything we need to be aware of,” said Insley. “We’ll take a heightened look and play real close attention to things going on to try and prevent us from having the same kind of situation here.
“We’ve got to make sure we share that information so everyone has some awareness to things that are going on that could pose a threat to us. We want to make sure that information gets passed out to make us aware of new techniques and new ways to hide and conceal things.”
Several Chair City officers assisted with security at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year. Insley said the experience helped them see security at such a large event in a different light.
“I think their eyes were opened,” Insley said. “Any time you go to an event like that you always find something you didn’t think about or is a new concept to you. You always pick up new ideas you hope to bring back and implement.”
Thomasville’s annual Memorial Day parade is one of the largest single day events of the year in North Carolina, attracting tens of thousands of people to the Chair City. Insley said there’s a fine line between ensuring safety and enabling people to enjoy themselves.
“There are things that may put some folks in a disadvantage,” Insley said. “If you tell a small kid he can’t bring a book bag, you put them in a disadvantage but it’s because you want everyone to have a safe event and enjoy themselves. You always have to keep your guard up and you always have to keep your awareness heightened. That’s a challenge and making sure you can ensure the safety of those attending the event.”
Lexington’s barbecue festival brings in thousands of visitors to the area every year. Davidson County Sheriff David Grice, who received notification of the bombings within minutes of the attack, said that what happened on Monday will heighten awareness within his department.
“We’re always vigilant, but we’ll be much more vigilant since this happened,” Grice said. “We’ve been on a heightened awareness since 9/11 and we have a lot more different mechanisms available to us than we did since that occurred. We have better information sharing.”
Grice said balancing people’s personal freedoms with public safety at large events is challenging.
“It’s always a challenge determining when do we intervene and stop someone and talk to them,” said Grice.
Early findings in the bombing investigation indicate the explosives were packed in a pressure cooker and hidden in a backpack. Materials used in the attacks commonly are available to the public, making it hard for law enforcement to regulate access to such devices.
“That’s always a challenge,” Grice said. “That’s why we don’t like to talk about it too much.”
Even though Thomasville and Davidson County are hundreds of miles from New York, Washington D.C. and Boston, Grice said local law enforcement can’t assume the area is immune to such attacks.
“We would rather too much than not enough, always,” said Grice. “We’re going to err on the side of safety.”
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.