CONCERTS ARE ‘TARGET-RICH’ PLACES FOR TERROR ATTACKS
The attack demonstrated the need for further surveillance technology to monitor public spaces
WITH bomb-sniffing dogs, bag inspections and rows of metal detectors at the entrance, the modern concert arena is, in some ways, a fortress.
But, the blast that killed 22 people on Monday at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, highlighted the dangers that still exist along the perimeters of these buildings — on the street or in public concourses where concert-goers and others may gather in large numbers, unexamined by any security force.
Investigators say the explosion at Manchester Arena occurred in a foyer outside the venue’s doors, a space that connects the arena to the nearby Victoria rail station. SMG, the company that manages the arena, said it is not responsible for policing that space.
The episode immediately recalled the attacks in Paris in November 2015, when gunmen who entered the Bataclan theatre during a performance killed 90 people. But Steven A. Adelman, the vice-president of the Event Safety Alliance, a trade group, believes that comparison is not quite apt.
“It’s less like the Bataclan than it is the Boston Marathon bombing, which also took place on a public street, surrounded by law enforcement,” he said. “It was another target-rich environment for someone with bad intent.”
With the Manchester bombing, the multi-billion-dollar music touring industry is once again confronting the spectre of violence. Last summer, with the Paris attacks still a fresh memory, singer Christina Grimmie was shot while signing autographs in Orlando, Florida, and in a separate episode in the same city, a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub.
Grande’s tour is scheduled to stop at the O2 arena in London today and tomorrow, but neither she nor the arena have said whether those shows would go ahead as planned.
In recent years, arenas and stadiums in most major markets have implemented extensive security plans, in part dictated by the demands of sports leagues. Sophisticated surveillance and screening technology — as well as common sense moves like bright lighting — are now common. For some events, especially hip-hop shows, the pat-downs and searches are especially thorough.
Michael Downing, a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, is now a security consultant at Prevent Advisors, a subsidiary of Oak View Partners, a company that advises sports and entertainment venues like Madison Square Garden. Downing, a counterterrorism expert, said the Manchester attack demonstrated the need for further surveillance technology to monitor public spaces. Entertainment venues, he added, have become standard “soft targets” for terrorists.
“This is something we’ve been anticipating, something we’ve seen in the electronic magazines of al-Qaeda and (Islamic State),” Downing said. “They encourage attacks on stadiums and arenas, malls, transportation hubs.”
Russ Simons, of the Venue Solutions Group, described security at such major spaces as a catand-mouse game with sophisticated attackers.
“Every time we make a move, that move is analysed by our opponents,” he said. “They are looking for our next vulnerability.”
Several concert promoters and security professionals declined to discuss their procedures on Tuesday, for what one promoter called “obvious reasons”.
Still, there is a broader concern
THURSDAY, MAY 25, 2017 in the music industry that no one wants the concert experience to become too militarised.
“Going to see a show or a sporting event as a kid is one of life’s true moments of happiness,” said Jonathan Daniel, whose company, Crush Music, manages artistes like Sia, Fall Out Boy and Lorde. “It would be terrible to lose that.”
Wes Westley, the chief executive of SMG, said in an interview that his company has been heightening its security procedures since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. After the Paris attacks in 2015, he said, the procedures were already strict.
“We already had tight security,” Westley said. “It was hard to get it any tighter. We wouldn’t let people in the building.”
For many of the talent executives and concert promoters who plan tours, Tuesday began with calls from artistes debating whether to go forward with their shows. With sales revenue from recordings still down, musicians now derive more and more of their income from touring, and many say they are under constant pressure to stay on the road.
Marc Geiger, the head of music at William Morris Endeavor, said
A woman looking at flowers people have left for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack on Tuesday. With the Manchester bombing, the multi-billion-dollar music touring industry is once again confronting the spectre of violence.