Why Extra Security Might Not Be Enough At 'Soft Targets' | KERA News

Why Extra Security Might Not Be Enough At 'Soft Targets'

Jun 14, 2016

The Orlando nightclub shooting has prompted businesses across the country and in North Texas to boost security. In Dallas, police are working with the FBI to watch over entertainment districts, like gay-friendly Oak Lawn. But some national security experts argue ramping up security in everyday spots may not be the most effective solution.

Nightclubs, restaurants, buses, schools and shopping malls. They’re known as “soft targets.” Places with little security where lots of people stroll freely, places that can be easy for terrorists to strike.

"The reason terrorism continues to exist is because it’s very adaptable," said Sahar Aziz, an associate professor at the Texas A&M Law School in Fort Worth, specializing in counterterrorism and national security. "They look to see where the governments, the militaries or the police forces are focused and then they find the places where they’re not focused because they know that it is practically impossible to protect everything and everyone at all times."

Security officials in the U.S. have long feared these places would become more common targets. And over the weekend, that fear became reality when Omar Mateen killed 49 people and injured more than 50 others in a shooting spree at a gay nightclub in Orlando. 

It's a scenario that's been played out before. Earlier this year, deadly terrorist bombings at Brussels' international airport and a subway station killed at least 30 people. In November, a coordinated terrorist attack in Paris at a restaurant, nightclub and soccer stadium killed at least 129 people. And in 2005,  52 people were killed and 700 were injured after coordinated attacks on the London subway and bus systems.

In Dallas' Oak Lawn area, security has been a constant concern since a spate of assaults against gay men late last fall. Lee Daugherty, who owns Alexandre's, a gay bar on Cedar Springs, led the push to improve safety in Oak Lawn following the assaults. He said the Orlando shooting at the gay nightclub, Pulse, hit close to home. 

"We improved the infrastructure of security cameras, added armed security at nights and on weekends and did exterior facing cameras so we not only focus on the inside of our business but also focus on the outside to protect staff members and patrons," he said. 

Daugherty doesn’t foresee increased security in the wake of the Orlando attack.

"We’re going to continue going in the direction we are — volunteer patrolling and fighting complacency and maintaining the vigilance that we’re seeing," Daugherty said. 

On Sunday, though, Mayor Mike Rawlings announced that Dallas Police will boost its presence in entertainment districts.

Security experts like professor Sahar Aziz wonder just how effective extra security is for “soft targets.” 

"It’ll completely change our way of life where we will be concerned about safety everywhere we go, which is precisely what terrorists want is they want to create this indefinite state of insecurity," she said. 

Aziz also said beefing up security at everyday places doesn’t get to the root of the problem. She argues the U.S. needs to take a hard look at its lax gun laws, which make mass shootings like these easier.