Indianapolis safety officials studying Boston investigation
Safety officials in Indianapolis are expecting "safe, violence-free events" in central Indiana following the Boston Marathon bombings, but they're also doing "due diligence" and learning what they can from the deadly event.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials and Indiana State Police say they are confident in their security plan for this year's Indianapolis 500 and won't remove trash cans from the track in response to deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon. The Indianapolis 500 is May 26.
State police Sgt. Brian Olehy said during a news conference Tuesday that officers will conduct frequent security sweeps of garbage cans but won't remove them because doing so would pose a health hazard.
Speedway spokesman Doug Boles says about 60 people met Tuesday to discuss how to respond to an incident like the Boston bombings. He says the exercise was one of dozens of public safety meetings held each year.
The exercise included public safety officials and representatives from hospitals and the National Weather Service.
Public Safety Director Troy Riggs spoke with reporters Tuesday afternoon, a day after two explosions caused three deaths and over 170 injuries near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Riggs says it typically takes investigators around 72 hours to start getting a clear picture of what happened in an event like Monday's attack, which is being investigated as a terrorist act. His biggest concern about the investigation is the type of explosive used in the bombings.
The explosives used in the Boston Marathon attack were crude devices often called "pressure cooker" bombs, according to a person briefed on the investigation. The person spoke condition of anonymity because the investigation in Boston was still ongoing.
While the devices have been frequently used in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, in recent years they have also shown up in plots in the U.S. and France.
Explosives typically are placed inside a pressure cooker - a commonplace cooking utensil in many countries - and the device is then detonated using everyday electronic equipment such as digital watches, garage door openers, cellphones or pagers. Pressure builds inside the container and shrapnel is expelled. Al-Qaida affiliates have provided training and manuals on how to build such devices.
There's evidence of ball bearings and sharp objects being used in Monday's bombings.
Meantime, Riggs says his department has reached out to the 500 Festival and other event organizers to ensure safe events in the coming months. He says they've reviewed security and operational plans.
"We live in a great city with tremendous events and many people across this nation come here to find out how we do it and how we do it effectively. That does not mean there is not room for improvement. We're always looking for improvement. We're gonna learn about what happened in Boston and make any changes that need to be made," said Riggs.
Mayor Greg Ballard has dedicated additional resources if needed, including the Department of Public Works.
Riggs says you won't notice any changes, since most adjustments will occur behind the scenes. He says there will be an increase in security.
"We have to do due diligence. That's what we get paid to do," said Riggs. But he also reminded the public that they need to take responsibility, too. That means reporting a suspicious package or an unruly person.
On a side note, Riggs also said it was the first time he was alerted to a significant news event through Twitter. "The information came through social media much sooner than the traditional newscasts," said Riggs, and he said his team will look into how they might utilize social media during a similar event.
Riggs also spoke with Eyewitness News on Sunrise Tuesday. He said while the injuries are shocking, it's remarkable that there weren't more casualties. Riggs also said that in the past, it was somewhat easier to narrow down an investigation like this, but with the proliferation of material circulating on the internet about how to build a bomb, it's harder to track down who might be responsible.
"But I can tell you that I know all the federal resources are there, all the local, and they'll be sharing information with other local and national law enforcements," he said.
Regarding this weekend's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and other events like the Mini Marathon next month, Riggs says the Department of Public Safety is prepared.
"We're going to learn what we can from Boston, listen to any type of intelligence chatter that's out there and make any changes as needed," he said.
Riggs says his department has been alerted that there are "no threats to Indianapolis at this time. However we still have to remain vigilant and we're asking the citizens for their help as well."
Law enforcement always plans for the worst-case scenario, Riggs said, even if there are no active threats. He also says it's important for the public to be on the alert and report anything out of the ordinary to a police officer nearby or call 911.
"We'd much rather come somewhere and look at something erroneous than to have something like this occur," said Riggs.
If you're planning on attending a large gathering, Riggs says to be aware, but don't stay away.
"One of the things that my family and I have made a personal decision to do is that we will not stay away from events when something like this occurs. It's fear that terrorists are trying to put in our hearts and we can't allow that to happen," he said.