Shooting heightens concern at entertainment venues
People read the movie timetable from behind a police barricades set up outside a movie theatre screening “The Dark Knight Rises,” Friday, July 20, 2012 in New York. Some theaters and police around the U.S. stepped up security at daytime showings of the new Batman movie Friday after the massacre in Colorado, and while many fans were undeterred by the tragedy, others were nervous about going to see the film. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The mass shooting at a Colorado movie theater rattled the nerves of some other moviegoers with opening weekend tickets for the new Batman film and led some cinema chains to add more guards. Experts say it's unlikely, though, that venues will implement even stricter security measures because it would significantly alter the experience of going to a film, concert or game.
The early Friday rampage in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises," left 12 people dead and dozens wounded. Authorities say the gunman apparently slipped out through an emergency exit to arm himself, then re-entered that way and opened fire on the startled audience.
The attack had a chilling effect on some ticketholders who had been eagerly awaiting what had been billed as the summer's hottest movie.
"I'm just going to keep my eyes and ears open for anything strange," 27-year-old Charlotte Kimbrell, of Belleville, Ill., said before a screening of "Dark Knight" at a theater in nearby O'Fallon. "I'll probably be sitting all the way in back today, away from the exit doors."
It was in the back of some baseball fans' minds Friday, as well.
"I think paranoia takes over after something like that and something like today, but I think for the most part, all they can do is check your bags and hope that you're not crazy," said David Karney, of Quincy, Mich., who watched the Detroit Tigers host the Chicago White Sox. "At the end of the day, if you're crazy and want to do something, you're going to do it."
The angst is understandable after the attack, which was one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history. But security experts say changes made at ballparks, theaters and concert venues after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have gone a long way toward making them safer.
"The problem is security is never 100 percent," said Richard Sem, a longtime security management executive from Wisconsin who is now a consultant. "We look at what's reasonable, practical. You don't necessarily need Fort Knox to go to a Sunday afternoon baseball game."
A decade after the terrorist attacks, at ballparks and concerts, bag checks are now common when entering a venue. Sometimes, there are metal detector wand scans at sporting events. Some movie theaters already have random bag checks. But experts say that it can be a difficult choice to decide where to install additional extra measures, and note that it's no guarantee a patron will be safer with them in place.
"Are we going to put in security that might not work at every movie theater, at every mall?" asked Derek Catsam, a history professor at the University of Texas of the Permian who studies and writes about stadium security issues. "Think of all the places you go during the day where you stand in line or are stuck in crowds. This could happen at any of those places."
At Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where the Cardinals were hosting the rival Chicago Cubs for three sold-out weekend games, security officials were on alert Friday.
"We're concerned, we're certainly saddened and we'll be extra vigilant in our regular security," said Joe Abernathy, vice president of stadium operations.
Abernathy said there were no major security changes planned because the team feels it's already doing everything it can to keep fans safe. Police officers man stadium entrances, and there are nearly 150 security cameras at the ballpark. All bags are checked at the entrance. And costumes, in which someone might hide a weapon, aren't allowed, not even masks.