CON­CERTS ARE ‘TAR­GET-RICH’ PLACES FOR TER­ROR AT­TACKS

The at­tack demon­strated the need for fur­ther sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy to mon­i­tor pub­lic spa­ces

New Straits Times - - News -

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.

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