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Areas Outside Arenas Becoming a Bigger Security Priority

  • Associated Press

Map of Manchester Arena Bombing

Even before the suicide bombing that killed 22 people at a Manchester, England, arena Monday night, the Chicago Cubs were evaluating ways to make the area around Wrigley Field safer.

The City Council Budget Committee on Tuesday approved a $1 million donation by the World Series champions for the installation of 30 security cameras around the stadium in a densely populated neighborhood. The timing was coincidental -- it was in the works for over a year -- but the expensive undertaking underscores how difficult it is to keep large locales secure, especially after events.

Police block a road near to the Manchester Arena in central Manchester, England, May 23, 2017. An explosion struck an Ariana Grande concert attended by thousands of young music fans in northern England late Monday, killing over a dozen people and injuring
Police block a road near to the Manchester Arena in central Manchester, England, May 23, 2017. An explosion struck an Ariana Grande concert attended by thousands of young music fans in northern England late Monday, killing over a dozen people and injuring

Manchester police would not say if the bomber blew himself up inside or outside the arena, so it is not clear if rigorous bag screening or additional pre-event security would have helped prevent the deaths and injuries. The venue tweeted on Monday night that it happened "outside the venue in a public space."

"The risks now are higher outside of a stadium or venue than inside," Cubs spokesman Julian Green said. "Being able to check and monitor activity outside is becoming increasingly important."

The cameras will provide a 360-degree view outside the stadium, Green said. They will be installed around Wrigleyville and on a highway exit near the ballpark, but aren't likely to be ready until next season.

"We're being vigilant, not only for our fans but for the larger community that calls this place home,'' Green said.

After the 2005 suicide bombings that killed 52 people riding subways and a bus in London, Britain installed barriers around airports, transportation hubs and government buildings. However, bag checks are not routinely conducted on passengers boarding the country's trains and buses. Security at sporting events and museums remains scattershot, experts say.

A New York Police Department anti-terror unit guard an entry area to Madison Square Garden as families arrive for a graduation ceremony, May 23, 2017, in New York.
A New York Police Department anti-terror unit guard an entry area to Madison Square Garden as families arrive for a graduation ceremony, May 23, 2017, in New York.

The attack in Manchester illustrated the challenges in securing public spaces and potentially the limits of existing methods, although security protocols vary by country and venue. Most of the 130 people killed in the November 2015 attacks at multiple Paris locations were attending a show at the Bataclan concert hall.

"The level of screening is dependent on two things - the level of processes undertaken and the size of the venue. But nothing is consistent," Bob Ayers, a security expert who used to work for the CIA, said. "Think about (the) London Underground. If you try to do airport-style screening, people would never get anywhere on time. Nothing is ever 100 percent.:

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for security at the arena on Monday. Telephone calls and emails were not immediately answered on Tuesday.

Bag checks and going through metal detectors have been standard procedure at stadiums and arenas in North America for at least the last seven years. Since 2012, fans attending National Football League games could only bring clear plastic bags into stadiums.

New York Yankees outfielders Aaron Hicks (31), Jacoby Ellsbury,(22) and Aaron Judge (99), lower right, stand at attention as the British National Anthem is played prior to a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York, in memory of victims of the Manchester, England bombing, May 23, 2017.
New York Yankees outfielders Aaron Hicks (31), Jacoby Ellsbury,(22) and Aaron Judge (99), lower right, stand at attention as the British National Anthem is played prior to a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium in New York, in memory of victims of the Manchester, England bombing, May 23, 2017.

Major League Baseball mandated metal detectors at all ballparks in 2014. Spokesmen for MLB and the NFL said the leagues continue to improve and modify security plans as necessary in conjunction with law enforcement officials.

"I think our people have done a really good job doing everything they can to protect our fans and protect the players and everyone involved that's here in this building, you me, but you're always worried," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday's game against the Royals.

Security was at a heightened level before Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night between the Celtics and Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Fans were having bags checked before entering a plaza near the arena where bands were performing and fans could watch the game without a ticket.

This was the first time that there have been large trucks blocking all access to the perimeter roads around the arena and outdoor area.

Survivors of the bombing said security screening ahead of the Ariana Grande show was haphazard, raising the question of whether public arenas and other crowded spaces are being safeguarded to the extent they could be.

"There was almost no security check," concert-goer Nikola Trochtova, who was leaving the Manchester Arena when she heard an explosion, told Czech public radio on Tuesday. "They let us get in without any check."

Forensic police search the Manchester Arena in Manchester, Britain, May 23, 2017.
Forensic police search the Manchester Arena in Manchester, Britain, May 23, 2017.

Another survivor of the Monday night attack, Ryan Molloy, said some people had their bags checked on the way into the concert, while others did not.

Grande's panicked fans stumbled to escape the arena after hearing loud noises and seeing people running toward the exits. The bombing took place at the end of the concert when security is much more relaxed as some audience members already were streaming toward the city's main train station. An 8-year-old girl was among the dead.

"Authorities could consider a perimeter farther away from the main space of the arena, but the practical matter then becomes where the screening should be done," Wendy Patrick, a California lawyer and threat assessment expert, said. "But the focus of our attention is generally driven by the latest attack."

Sean Braisted, an official with the mayor's office in Nashville, Tennessee, said the city is still moving ahead with plans for outdoor events and watch parties near Bridgestone Arena during the Stanley Cup Finals. Residents gathered outside Bridgestone Arena during Monday's Western Conference finals game against Anaheim.

Large screens were set up outside but security was tight, with many officers restricting traffic around the arena and monitoring the crowd.

Ansley Bancroft, a resident of neighboring Franklin said she is often anxious.

"It's always been a fear of mine," Bancroft said. "I am terrified of, like, airports and stuff like that. Just because we are all born to believe that could happen anywhere anytime. ... But after hearing about (Manchester), it did make coming to such a large event a lot more nerve-wracking."

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