Securing the City
Soon, the race car drivers and floats will roll down Meridian Street in the IPL 500 Festival Parade. Monument Circle will honor fallen soldiers at the 500 Festival Memorial Service. The grandstands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be packed. The month of May means big events, huge crowds and heightened security.
"The Speedway police, the state police, we have the National Guard, the civil support team with the national guard, the FBI, the Secret Service. We have a lot of agencies involved in that whole month," said Indianapolis Homeland Security Chief Gary Coons.
Now, in light of the Boston Marathon bombings and the surveillance photos that helped nab the suspects, there is a renewed call for people to report anything suspicious.
"If it's unusual, out of place, if they see somebody walk up, set it down, and run, that's unusual. That's out of place. They need to let us know as soon as possible," said Sgt. Ron Humbert with the IMPD bomb squad.
Homeland Security is promoting its "If You See Something, Say Something" campaign that includes the following suspicious activity.
1) Conducting surveillance: Be aware of individuals who are seen multiple times at the same locations, sitting in parked vehicles, waiting or loitering at stations for extended periods, taking notes or annotating maps, or showing an abnormal interest in operations and facilities.
2) Infiltrating secure areas: Be aware of individuals who are entering restricted areas, attempting to gain access into restricted areas or asking for security sensitive information.
3) Testing security: Be aware of individuals who are changing or tampering with locks, disabling surveillance equipment, compromising fences or gates.
4) Suspicious behavior: Be aware of unusual or out-of-place activity for your transportation and community environment.
5) Suspicious packages, bags or vehicles: Be aware of unaccompanied packages or bags placed in a discreet location or other obscured area, or unoccupied vehicles parked close to buildings, bridges, stations, terminals, or other critical structures.
"We are dependent on the public to let us know what's going on. Is there something that's just not right," said Coons. "If someone drives up and parks right next to a building, it's not supposed to be parked there and gets out and takes off, runs away, something is not right with that. People just don't normally do that.
"If you're in the month of May and it's 90 degrees out and somebody is walking around with really baggy clothes and a big coat on, that's just not normal," Coons added. "If they saw somebody robbing a store, they'd call 911. So, we're asking that if you put something down like a backpack or a bag or park a car near a building and run away from it, to give us a call."
The IMPD bomb squad has six robots ready to go. "Charlie" is a $65,000 robot that weighs 120 pounds that will be outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway just in case.
"It has four cameras, speakers, microphone, able to climb stairs. So we can get intelligence, we can talk through hostage situations. It's one of the tools we have available to us," said Rick Turner with the IMPD Bomb Squad. "We can send it down range toward the package itself to look at it and see what we've got through the multiple cameras. We can also put disruption tools on it and do the same thing a bomb tech does, go down and disrupt the device."
Police training has been picking up across Indianapolis. Heavily armed officers, horse patrols and a SWAT team vehicle went through training exercises in April at the State Fairgrounds to get ready for potential trouble at the Indianapolis 500.
"Simply because the event is so large and so physical with the number of participants, we like to have our officers very comfortable with these movements so they can jump in wherever they might be needed," said IMPD Lieutenant Brian Bethel.
"We put our officers through field force training, We have specialty teams that are emergency teams. They go through training whether we have to switch from a crowd management to a crowd control. We always train our officers to be more crowd managers," said Coons. "Horses are great at crowd control. They're able to move masses of people in a very logical pattern. When you put a horse out there and you put other officers out there, the horse helps move the individual."
Officers have practiced how they would respond in a building collapse. Homeland Security even has computer animation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that shows where people would likely go, how they would move and where they would congregate during an evacuation. Authorities believe they could evacuate the track in less than an hour. By studying the animation, police hope to plan for a faster and more efficient evacuation.
Regardless of which event is taking place during the month of May, officers are watching. The Homeland Security Regional Operation Center ("ROC") has a Situation Room where authorities keep tabs on more than 100 cameras around Indianapolis. Officers watch traffic flow, Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse. But since officers can't see everything, they need your help.
"If you do see something that just doesn't seem right, somebody walks up with a backpack and sets it down. Somebody puts something in a trash can and it's kind of big and it doesn't seem right, give us a call," said Coons.
If it is suspicious, the bomb squad has a device that can give real time x-rays.
"We can look for anything that may jump out at us," said Humbert. "Power pack, batteries, blasting cap, excessive amount of wires. If we're seeing wires, battery, power source, timer, we'll hit it with a remote tool."
"Everyone has this perception because of TV and movies that it's a black bag that is put down and has explosives in it. But, we've seen them in white bags, we've seen them in different colored bags," said Coons. "It's not the movie screen black bag - bomb-carrying black bag - we've seen them in different colors."
The city of Indianapolis has had practice protecting big events like the Super Bowl. But at the Indy 500, while fans are watching the race, police will be watching everything. Extra canines will be on site. The bomb squad will have teams inside and outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sharp-shooters are positioned inside the track just in case they are needed. Homeland Security plan to have 300-400 officers assigned to the race including traffic around the track.
It is all part of protecting the race, the city and its people.