CINCINNATI – A lone-gunman scenario is the top security concern for public safety officials when Major League Baseball's All-Star Game comes to Cincinnati next year.
Two, high-ranking public safety officials said Cincinnati is ready to host the game, but a few upgrades in equipment are needed to insure the safety of the thousands expected to attend the game and festivities. The main concern for public safety officials here is a lone wolf scenario, whether it is a lone gunman or a person attacking alone using some kind of hazardous material or weapon of mass destruction to harm large crowds, they said.
That is is not an uncommon concern for police and fire officials here and across the nation, especially after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 when two brothers planted bombs along the routes that killed three and injured 260. In fact, a 2013 article in a policing magazine discussed the lone wolf concern.
In 2011, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano warned that lone wolf terror plots were on the rise.
"What we see now is smaller plots," she said at the time. "But we are also seeing a rise of activities by individuals who are acting by themselves, and that kind of attack is the most difficult to prevent because there is nothing to intercept."
First Meeting With MLB Next Month
Executive Assistant Police Chief Paul Humphries, the department’s second in command, and Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dadosky, attended All-Star Game festivities last week and both said that while Cincinnati’s Downtown is a little more cramped than Minneapolis’, Cincinnati’s experience hosting international events, namely the World Choir Games, already provides a wealth of experience to host the festivities.
The first official meeting with Major League Baseball, the Reds and regional public safety agencies is scheduled for next month, Dadosky said.
“It’s not just the game,” Humphries said. “There are way more people that attend festivities around the game – the FanFest, the parade, for example – than the actual game.
“We have experience with our own Opening Day Parade as well as hosting big events in the past.”
Humphries, who confirmed he will be the incident commander for the game next year, said there will be a unified command post consisting of all city and regional agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to respond to the needs of the festivities. In Minneapolis, the FBI, state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Secret Service, State Patrol, Homeland Security helped out.
“The key is that while this is a huge event for our city and region, we need to make sure we have a functional Downtown,” Humphries said. “We can’t be closing too many streets and restricting the day-to-day business of the many businesses headquartered Downtown.”
The main concern for Humphries is the use of a drone weapon. He said the wide use of drones in the public and private sectors, may provide an avenue to launch an attack.
“We will have the ground, the waterways and the air covered, but it’s still an area of concern for me – covering all that airspace,” Humphries said.
The Minneapolis Convention Center, a facility Humphries admits is considerably larger than the Duke Energy Convention Center downtown, hosted the four-day FanFest entirely within its walls.
Humphries said Cincinnati will likely have to close one or two streets around the Duke Energy Convention Center to accommodate the thousands of fans. Anywhere between 100,000 to 200,000 fans attended the week-long festivities, officials said.
“The term all-star game is a bit of a misnomer,” Dadosky said. “I’d call it All-Star week. There are some many events throughout the week.”
Minneapolis officials told Humphries All-Star game festivities has an estimated $70 to $75 million economic impact, and while he recognizes hosting an event of this size requires a tremendous amount of investment and resources, “this is a great thing for this city; I’m very confident that we will be ready.
“We have to remember that there are a lot of people that will come to town, and these are families – we should treat them as such.”
Dadosky said it was reassuring to visit a city of similar size to Cincinnati that hosted such a big event.
“Minneapolis is bit bigger, but I just felt that when we were out, I just got a feel that takes place comparatively to Cincinnati,” Dadosky said. “That was reassuring to me that the city (Cincinnati) will be more than ready to handle the entire week.”
Camera Network Will Help Keep Watch
In terms of equipment, Humphries cited Cincinnati’s existing, closed-circuit camera network as an asset. The six officers at the real-time crime center, housed at the Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency, have the capability of monitoring video from the city’s 130 cameras.
Pole cameras, typically installed high atop busy intersections or crowded venues, may provide additional eyes for police. Humphries said police are already equipped with pole cameras, but they may need to upgrade the equipment or
purchase new ones. The cameras are operated wirelessly.
The city will need more bomb-sniffing dogs, too. The police department and the sheriff’s office have two each but Humphries did not say how many are needed. He alluded to reaching out to regional agencies to provide more dogs, similarly to when police requested aid during last year’s Flying Pig Marathon – the first after the Boston Marathon bombings.
The biggest All-Star security presence will be concentrated at Great American Ball Park and the Duke Energy Convention Center. Humphries stressed that there will be no gap in emergency responses for incidents in other parts of the city during the events.
Early during this year’s All-Star game, a protester gained access to the large video board in right field by jumping from a parking ramp and scaling a ladder before unfurling a banner that read "Love water not oil."
Major League Baseball handles security inside the stadium with assistance from police agencies, Humphries said.
“We don’t want anyone unfurling a banner,” Dadosky said. “The lone wolfs, we definitely want to be aware of that. That’s a concern. There’s so many different angles and bases to cover.”