THE ISSUE: Impact of Boston bombs
OUR VIEW: Security officials must assume anywhere is potential target at any time
With the nation’s leaders focused on guns in the wake of mass killings, the reality of terror has hit home again. Just as a gunman killing school children in Connecticut prompts debate about how to prevent such tragedies elsewhere, the focus in the wake of Monday’s bombs in Boston is security at other high-profile events.
While the Boston Marathon is a major happening with thousands of people involved, there are hundreds of events daily around the country that bring together crowds in the thousands. The risk for attacks by someone or some group determined to kill cannot be minimized.
Time has a way of making people forget. The memories of Sept. 11, 2001, came flooding back Monday amid images of injury and mass chaos in the streets of a major American city. The Boston bombings reinforce again the need to be alert for out-of-the-ordinary scenarios in Everywhere U.S.A. Patience as security measures require longer waits or other inconvenience is the necessary price we all must pay.
With Hilton Head Island the scene of a major national event unfolding even as the nation looks for answers about Boston, security is paramount at the RBC Heritage Presented by Boeing. South Carolina’s only stop for golf’s PGA Tour is in many ways is a security nightmare.
Consider that tournament organizers expect more than 100,000 to attend the four-day tournament, which begins officially on Thursday. That’s in addition to hundreds of golfers, caddies and support staff and about 1,200 volunteers. They are all packed into a relatively small area at Harbour Town Golf Links in Sea Pines with limited access by land.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head in a Wednesday story examined the issue of Heritage security, reporting that officials say they have revamped measures following the Boston attacks.
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said Tuesday, “I won’t tell you what it is, but we have had conversations with the FBI and Homeland Security and we have reviewed what happened ... and we are of course evaluating the event here.”
S.C. Highway Patrol officers, Beaufort County sheriff’s deputies, Sea Pines security guards and the firm Securitas provide security for the Heritage golf events. Highway Patrol officers kept watch over spectator areas during Tuesday’s practice round, and dozens of Securitas staffers checked credentials, monitored restricted areas and the course itself. Armed Sea Pines security guards patrolled on foot and bicycles.
“We always take security seriously,” said Cary Kelley, executive vice president of Community Services Associates, which handles security in Sea Pines.
“We are approaching this like we do every year, which is, we want everyone that comes here to have a great time and to be safe,” Kelley told The Packet. He declined to discuss specific measures in effect for the tournament.
PGA Tour officials also declined to comment on security but affirmed the event was a safe place for fans, players and staff.
Meanwhile in Columbia, University of South Carolina journalism students Erin Shaw and Lauren Stitzlein interviewed officials about security for events in the capital. What happened in Boston is an awakening there, too.
“This is an opportunity to look at the plans and procedures and look to see if everything is in place,” said Thom Berry, a State Law Enforcement Division spokesman. “If there is a need for heightened security, then that can happen.”
Berry said he would expect to see an increased law enforcement presence for upcoming events in Columbia, or enough for people to consider “appropriate.”
For USC events such as baseball games and commencement ceremonies, Capt. Eric Grabski of the USC Police Department said that law enforcement will look at what happened in Boston and adapt plans if necessary.
Grabski said his department does protective sweeps for all major campus events, often working with others such as the FBI or Secret Service.
His overall assessment is the appropriate reminder for all locales: “You wouldn’t think that Columbia, S.C., would be a place where someone would want to cause harm, but we can’t think that we are immune to this.”