(WFXR) — For most people, festivals, parades, and celebrations are all about the fun, but for law enforcement, it’s another day at work.
Highland Park, Illinois — where a shooting broke out during a Fourth of July parade, killing seven and injuring 39 — is a city of about 30,000 people, a similar size to places in southwest Virginia like Salem or Cave Spring.
Following the deadly mass shooting in Illinois, WFXR News’ Rhian Lowndes spoke with law enforcement experts in the New River Valley about how they prepare for large events and potential violence.
“That’s an all-hands-on-deck situation. We have all of our staff come in, we have backup assistance from the county, State Police, and any other units that we need,” said Lt. John Saul, a patrol commander with the Pulaski Police Department.
For smaller communities like Pulaski and Highland Park, there are fewer resources to cover events, according to Saul. However, after the Fourth of July massacre, where the shooter reportedly used rooftops and disguises, those are boxes authorities will add to the checklist.
“Things are evolving and we’re trying to evolve with it,” Saul said.
Saul says working with other agencies is key, whether it’s making sure EMTs have easy access to the crowd or clearing traffic patterns and routes with the city.
“I think it’s just a matter of, how can we best learn from previous events? Everything should become a teachable moment,” explained Dr. Tod Burke, a former police officer and retired criminal justice professor at Radford University.
According to the Gun Safety Alliance, 93 Americans will die from gun violence in a single day.
Burke says preventing mass shootings is difficult, but minimizing danger is the goal. That includes civilians being on the lookout.
“If you see something, say something,” he said.
“I think that that’s one of the big problems that law enforcement, in general, is having a problem with,” said Saul. “How do we pre-attack, deal with these people?”
Whether it’s reading something odd on social media or spotting something that doesn’t make sense in the crowd, Saul says those are the moments people need to speak up.
The lieutenant also reminds festival-goers that it’s important to think about their own safety. You should know where your exits are, and in the case of danger, escape and call for help.