Boston Marathon Bombing Aftermath: Tampa Bay 'soft targets' watching Boston closely

5:50 PM, Apr 16, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: Twin explosions at Boston Marathon finish line
The Gasparilla Distance Classic


Boston Marathon Bombing

Full coverage of the twin bombing terrorist attack that struck the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013.

* PICS: Boston bombing explosion pictures
* PICS: Aftermath on Boylston Street
* Boston Marathon Bombing: Casualties, dozens injured after twin explosions at finish line 
* PICTURES: FBI releases images of 2 suspects
* Boy, 8, killed in Boston Marathon blasts
* Restaurant manager also killed
* Chinese grad student third dead victim
* OBAMA "We will find out who did this"
* Transcript of President Obama's immediate remarks
* Bombing "an act of terrorism"
* INVESTIGATION: FBI taking lead in Boston Marathon bombings
* Search is on: Boston Bombing suspect
* FBI in Boston: No known additional threats
* Mass. Gov: No unexploded bombs at Boston Marathon
* VIRAL PIC: Man on roof above Boston blast
* Know someone there?: How to find a marathon runner
* Google Boston Marathon person finder
* VIDEO: 10 News reporter Noah Pransky live from the scene
* Fear and fury from local marathon runner
* PRESSURE COOKERS suspected to have been bomb devices
* People running in remembrance of Boston victims
* Elderly runner seen falling down is unhurt
* Bomb parts pictured in leaked FBI bulletin
* Family Guy Hoax: Show creator condemns bomb-clip mashup
* Who is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev?
* CAUGHT! Bombing suspect in custody after standoff
* Surviving suspect answers questions in hospital


Tampa, FL -- So-called "soft targets" like the Boston Marathon and countless other outdoor events can be among the most difficult to secure.

In the Tampa Bay area, between art shows, festivals and parades and sporting events, there is no shortage of them.

For that reason, the explosions in Boston create a whole new set of challenges for major events which attract hundreds of thousands of people. 

One example is the annual Gasparilla Distance Classic along Bayshore Boulevard. Susan Harmeling was in Boston Monday, and about two hours earlier, was standing just feet from where the explosions detonated.

"That's right where we would have been," she said.

As Race Director of the Gaparilla Distance Classic, she knew the event she has led for the past 21 years would never be the same.

"It changes the face of running for everyone, for anyone who puts on a running event and anyone who runs in a running event," said Harmeling.

The run along Bayshore Boulevard, like the Boston Marathon, is impossible to confine: too many people, too many points of entry to secure.

Similar to the Gasparilla Parade, Harmeling says they are already take precautions to avoid trouble along the route. The plan now?

"See how things settle down up there and then immediately get together with the police department and we'll defer to them," she said.

The Bay area is, by nature, loaded with so-called soft targets... publicly accessible events with lots of people in confined spaces enjoying art, entertainment and sporting events.

"Any of those areas are always vulnerable to some sort of attack," said Adam Clarke, Director of Threat Management at Largo's Critical Intervention Services.

Clarke says it's up to all of us to safeguard soft targets. Keep your eyes open, he advises. Trust your instincts. And don't be afraid to speak up, he warns.

"In pretty much every single case, someone knew something, saw something heard something or felt something that wasn't right," he says.

Clarke also makes a distinction between soft targets and controlled soft targets.

The RNC, Super Bowl, and baseball games, he says, have controlled access. The venues can be swept, there are lit access points, and security checks people's belongings.

In the case of Gasparilla, the number of access points makes it much more difficult to secure, he says, making personal vigilance that much more vital.

In less than two weeks, thousands of people will gather in St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park for the annual St. Anthony's triathlon.

Organizers confirm they are now in contact with St. Pete police, and released a statement saying in part, "We are constantly reviewing our security procedures and are doing so now in light of the events in Boston."

"A lot of our police and fire departments have had cutbacks and I hope this one area where they don't cut back," said St. Petersburg resident Gregg Dunay. "They know the public has their full support behind them to come in and make sure we are safe."

Melissa Bako, who lives near Vinoy Park agreed.

"The chaos and what we had down in Boston if we could avoid that then I think it would be a great event," she said.

But what would make it better is if they have identified a suspect and a motive, said part-time resident Richard Ashley.

"I just hope they catch the ones that did it in Boston to take some of the worry off the people that are putting this event on here that nothing happens here," he said.

At this point, there has been no specific threat.

For now, organizers say they are waiting to see what comes out of Boston, and then take appropriate steps if necessary.

Whatever is learned from the investigation in Boston will likely be used at events here as well, they say, similar to the way protection and security tactics learned in the wake of 9-11 have been used since 2001.

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