Thousands of runners and walkers participate in a growing number of 5Ks in Johnson County, and at least one local police department might watch out more for suspicious packages near the finish line.
Police provide security at popular local runs, including the Mallow Run Winery’s Wine at the Line in Bargersville and Franklin’s Pumpkins in the Park. Two weeks from now, runners and walkers will line up for the Boaz Project’s 5K and one-mile Walk for Orphans at Craig Park in Greenwood and for a 5K run in Franklin that will benefit homeless youth.
This past weekend, runners dashed along Greenwood’s Tracy Trail for the Color Their Legacy Run, which raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Police typically provide security at such events, at least to ensure that cars don’t hit any of the runners while they cross streets.
Local police agencies said they didn’t know if security would be stepped up in the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon explosions but expect to review their procedures once more information comes to light about exactly what happened.
Police already prepare for a wide range of emergencies at races and special events such as the Greenwood Freedom Festival, Greenwood Police Chief John Laut said.
For instance, they are ready for lightning storms, heart attacks and even riots, Laut said. They could, if necessary, shut down WAMMFest or other major events and evacuate everyone, he said.
He said he couldn’t disclose the evacuation site because it could become a target, but he said police could shepherd residents to any number of places, depending on the circumstances.
“In our security planning, we perceive inclement weather to be a bigger threat in the Midwest than an attack,” Laut said. “But we never say never and are ready for any emergency whether it’s weather-related or man-made.”
Franklin police block traffic along race routes, such as for the upcoming second Walk A Mile in My Shoes 5K run/walk, Lt. Kerry Atwood said.
They line the streets for events that draw hundreds of people downtown, such as the county fair parade.
They don’t necessarily look for suspicious packages or check trash cans but might consider scanning more for potential explosives in light of the twin blasts at the Boston Marathon, Atwood said.
“We do basic crowd control and don’t look in trash cans for bombs,” he said. “But we might need to incorporate a little more training about what happens if a bomb blows up. It’s unlikely that would happen here, but what happened in Boston might require us to open a dialogue about security.”
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has a bomb squad that could be called out to disarm explosives at events, Sheriff Doug Cox said. Deputies train on how to respond to explosions and other terrorist attacks.
Johnson County is home to Camp Atterbury and infrastructure that could be targeted, he said.
Greenwood police watch out for suspicious behavior at races and special events, such as WAMMFest, Laut said.
They post officers at every street runners cross during 5Ks and deploy the entire department to the annual Freedom Festival.
Officers and firefighters patrol the grounds and could quickly respond to incidents, such as if fireworks sparked a fire or a car hit residents walking to Craig Park, Laut said.
They operate a triage center where paramedics and EMTs could treat multiple patients, such as if two or more people were to suffer heart attacks at the same time, he said.
Police have detailed plans for how they’ll provide security at such events that are based on training, experience and advice they’ve received, including from a special management expert who has coordinated security for the city of San Diego, the Republican National Convention and Major League Baseball games. They also review security plans for any large public gatherings or if a private group stages a 5K run, Laut said.
But the Boston blasts show that even the most detailed and well-prepared plans don’t always account for every scenario, Laut said.