Austin Police Move to Protect the Public from Terrorism During Large Events

The Liberty Beat

By: Julie Wilson

Cities around the nation continue to increase police surveillance at major events following the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing that occurred last April, and Austin is no exception.

Although there have been no direct threats, events such as races at the newly built Formula One racetrack, and the popular football rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma, has Austin authorities preparing months in advance for a possible attack.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said, “There are no specific threats but we all know that sporting events and events where there’s going to be large groups of people are always a potential. We are going to have a large footprint, not just at Formula One, at COTA, but throughout the city.”

The Austin Police Department (APD) intends to use increased security in the form of “explosive ordinance detection dogs,” and an expanding “public safety camera system.”

Local15TV reported in April that bomb-sniffing dogs were present at both the start and the finish line during the Boston Marathon bombing, however, did not detect the presence of explosives.

Austin, along with many other cities, are continually developing a highly advanced camera system that links private sector cameras into the police department’s system, providing authorities with around-the-clock surveillance.

While increased police surveillance continues to be normalized, privacy concerns have not gone unnoticed.

In early October, Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio, complained about invasive police surveillance when he witnessed the Department of Homeland Security patrolling a parking lot full of tailgaters with advanced cameras, spying on innocent Americans enjoying a popular pastime.

“The question is why was the Phoenix Police Department videotaping tailgaters doing what normal citizens do,” said DiCiccio. Phoenix’s mayor defended the action, arguing it was in the best interest of citizens.

As with Phoenix, Austin is no exception when it comes to drawing large crowds for football games.

KTBC describes Austin as a “prime target” for attacks, simply because of the large crowds the city draws for events. Darrel K. Royal stadium attracts an estimated 100,000 people for football games.

In another attempt to keep the public safe, APD encourages the public to practice the DHS campaign, “See something, say something,” which the government insists is an effective method for drawing awareness to possible indicators of terrorism.

“The local PD’s know the streets, they know they’re the eyes and ears and they know their communities so in the case of Boston for instance, even though they are on the task force they are not consulted about Mr. Tamerlan,” said U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul.

McCaul, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee believes keeping police informed on all levels can help decrease the risk of an attack.

“If you see something wrong and if you see someone who is mentally ill who may have a weapon, who may cause people harm… I think you have a responsibility to call it to the authorities’ attention,” said McCaul.

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