By Peter Schrager,
Baseball’s best and brightest will all be in action Tuesday night in Queens for the 2013 Major League Baseball All-Star Game (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
So will New York City’s finest.
For all the preparation and hard work the American League and National League All-Stars have put into their respective seasons to reach this point, the New York City Police Department’s put in as much, if not more, to ensure the players, the media and fans are protected from a potential terrorist attack.
In what will be arguably the biggest national spotlight sporting event since the Boston Marathon bombings in April, the NYPD, Major League Baseball, the New York Mets and countless other government agencies, taskforces and anti-terrorism experts have been working together tirelessly over the past several years to ensure the safest, most secure, summer evening possible.
“If you’re a terrorist, you’re likely looking to make a big splash. So the likelihood of an attack at this game vs. some regular season-game is presumably higher,” said Dr. David McWhorter, a principal at Catalyst Partners and a former employee of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Risk is the function of impact times probability. So, if your probability is increased a little bit and your risk is increased a little bit — you should put more resources into mitigating that risk.”
Dr. Lou Marciani, the director of the National Center for Spectator Safety and Sports Security at the University of Southern Mississippi, said you can bet the Big Apple is prepared.
“It’s the All Star Game and it’s in New York City. It’s iconic,” Marciani said. “It’s the best of the best. It’s Chevrolet. It’s apple pie. It’s America’s Pastime. Fortunately, there’s no better group prepared for an incident than the one Police commissioner Ray Kelly’s assembled in New York.”
No, this is certainly not some ordinary game. And it’s not being played in just any city, either. Less than three months removed from the tragic events in Boston, there’s an added level of preparedness going into Tuesday night’s exhibition.
“Security is paramount to us,” an MLB spokesperson told FOXSports.com earlier this week. “We have many specific security parameters and protocols that are a part of the bidding process to host an All-Star Game. And those go beyond the host club and extend to the city, in some cases the county, and the relevant agencies.
“We have had planning meetings with the Mets since last August, and our security department has been actively involved every step of the way.”
New York City Police Department deputy commissioner Paul Browne says the NYPD has been preparing for Tuesday night’s game at CitiField for “several years,” and has full confidence in the individuals, technology and agencies employed to keep the stadium safe.
“The police commissioner has a saying: ‘Terrorism is theater. And New York is the world’s biggest stage,”” Browne said. “When we’re having something that’s attracting FOX Sports, for example, and is attracting that kind of attention for good reasons — (the NYPD) always thinks of it as something that can be exploited for terrorist reasons.
We take the position of the Mayor. New Yorkers live their lives normally, even though we continue to see plots against the city. New Yorkers leave the worrying to the experts, meaning the police department and the joint terrorist task force with the FBI, where we have about 120 detectives assigned.
“People can’t live in a constant state of high alert. That’s what the police department is paid to do.”
New York hosted an All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium in 2008. Marciani, one of the preeminent experts in stadium security, expects an even greater level of sophistication and preparedness for Tuesday’s game at Citi Field than what was employed in the Bronx five years ago.
“Expect greater vigilance, even more training of staff, and more technological advancements at this year’s All-Star Game,” Marciani said. “It’s safe to say that there will be more cameras, better quality high-definition ones and enhanced video surveillance.
“Video surveillance has really turned the corner in the past several years. After the (Boston) Marathon, I’d expect even greater vigilance than usual.”
Added Browne, “Our radiation detection technology has advanced since 2008 and our camera technology has really advanced.”
Browne says the city has, indeed, acquired 100 additional portable cameras since the Boston Marathon, and those cameras will be used Tuesday night. The portable cameras, which can be put up with city light bulbs serving as the power source, can be activated and moved before, during, and after a major event.
Following the Boston Marathon, the police department first used these portable cameras for the New York City Five Boro Bike Tour. The cameras are the most notable technological addition, but are merely just one piece to what the police department refers to as a highly detailed “domain awareness system.”
Going into some of the specifics in which he can share, Browne notes the following measures that will all most likely be employed Tuesday night:
• SWAT teams maintaining observation posts.
• Counter-sniper units on the lookout for any potential snipers.
• “Plain-clothes” officers and people sweeping the crowd in the observation office — “They’ll be looking for any individuals abandoning a package, for example,” Browne said.
• Vapor Wake dogs, capable of picking up the scent of explosives on anyone who’s been handling them.
• Added attention to New York’s 7 train subway line, Jamaica Station and various other transportation hubs.
• “Sally ports,” the term used for the metal plates that come out of the ground and prevent vehicles from getting close enough to a venue with a car or truck bomb.
These core elements, in addition to various officers working the event, are all just a small part of the larger security plan. The details being shared with the public, as you”d expect, are merely scratching the surface.
It’s worth noting, however, that the experts we spoke to used caution in comparing Tuesday night’s All-Star Game to something like the Boston Marathon.
“They’re different types of events,” Dr. McWhorter said. “A marathon course has no perimeter. It’s just city streets. You can’t lock down a 26-linear-mile path through Boston, unlike a stadium, where although you’ll have more people watching it live, there’s a perimeter and access control.
“That perimeter could be pushed out with temporary fences. And you need a ticket to get into the stadium. That’s what we mean by ‘access control.’
“A marathon is harder to protect, all things being equal. Yet, with all the national attention to the All-Star Game does come added risk.”
Marciani points out, “The challenge of an open-access event that’s 26 miles brings on so many issues — surveillance, credentialing, more freedom — it’s very difficult to try to manage.
“Hopefully, you do manage the best you can. But All-Star Games, Super Bowls, and Final Fours — big events like that — they all have extra resources that most other events do not have because they’re so high-profile. So, with the greater attention also comes greater resources to prepare and respond.”
New York City, of course, is no stranger to keeping its landmarks and milestone events secure. Browne points out that the 10 years spanning Sept. 11, 2001 through Sept. 11, 2011 marked the city’s first 10-year period since the 1940’s where there wasn’t some sort of terrorist attack against the city. He says 16 different terrorist plots against New York have been identified by the city’s various taskforces since 9/11.
“We do a pretty thorough job,” Browne said. “We do a lot of things that we may never know if they have prevented an attack. So far, so good, but there’s something to pay attention to every day.”
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg likes to remind his city’s residents, it’s the police force’s job to do just that.
On Tuesday night, there will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes that the majority of the nation will never know about.
And if baseball’s the topic of conversation, that means the plan is working.