RICHMOND, Va. -- Following news of a foiled mass shooting plot in Richmond and another mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in suburban Chicago, many are nervous about attending large, public events.
One expert has an important reminder for those who may feel on edge.
"Any number of events have happened safely this summer and people don't think about those, people only think about the very small number of bad things. We can't let these anomalies drive our behavior," Dr. William Pelfrey said.
On Thursday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney expressed confidence in the Richmond Police Department and Pelfrey said that civilians should be confident in law enforcement agencies.
"Every major event is preceded by weeks, maybe months, of planning where local law enforcement, state, event, federal agencies get together and they work together to prepare for all the contingencies that could happen," Pelfrey said.
Pelfrey said there are measures you can see and others that you can't, not to mention resources that are on standby and ready to go only if and when they're needed.
If you do see something, you are urged to say something and turn over information to those who are equipped to decide if there's a threat.
"I'll never say that it's not worth calling. We'd rather you call and have it be nothing than just put it on the backburner," Cpl. Craig Eckrich with the Chesterfield County Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit said.
If you find yourself thinking twice about gathering in public right now, Pelfrey said that it's human nature. However, he adds that we can't be made to feel afraid to go about and live our daily lives.
"When we change our behavior based on the actions of a small number of domestic terrorists or terrorists, we're losing. We're letting them win and we can't do that. Go out and do the things you want to do. Trust that law enforcement and public safety are doing everything they can to keep venues secure and they are."
Pelfrey provided the following answers to some common questions that people may have amid recent events:
- How do officials increase security with compromising feelings of safety?
Police security can be visible, via more uniformed officers, or conducted in low visibility fashion. Examples of low visibility efforts would be plain-clothes officers, counter-snipers, and technological monitoring via security cameras. The public will generally not notice increased uniformed police presence at large events. Since most of the attention is directed towards the event, a foot patrol officer walking by every 2 minutes or every 5 minutes is not a significant difference. As an example, when there is a NASCAR event at Richmond International Raceway, there may be over 100 uniformed law enforcement personnel visible, with more in the crowd, plus an additional contingent in a holding area for crisis response. Since most people are watching the races, the police are largely unnoticed.
- What insight can you provide into what law enforcement is doing behind the scenes/away from public view to ensure these public events are safe?
Law enforcement in our society is largely reactionary. There are some proactive efforts, primarily around intelligence collection and analysis, regarding major event security. Unfortunately, the people who make plans to attack a large event rarely post specifics online. Even when they do, that information is usually in the murky corners of the dark web which are not regularly monitored. Endorsing the See Something/Say Something mantra is a key vehicle for securing intel.
- People are understandably shaken and may have concerns. How/why should people feel ok/confident attending events outdoors?
On location at an event, law enforcement and other first responders have well-crafted plans to address issues. People need to know that there are many resources which are not immediately visible, ready to respond and intervene if necessary. Near any large public event, police, EMS, fire, and others have a coordination center, plans for resource deployment, and contingencies for addressing any number of crisis situations. If something bad happens, Richmond's first responders are ready. Law enforcement is on heightened alert for persons considering perpetuating bad acts and they will intervene with any suspicious persons.