In the wake of the Manchester attack, a closer look at perimeter safety in Boston reveals holes in security, according to a local expert.
The area where the TD Garden, Zakim Bridge and North Station all connect has issues, says Todd McGhee, a retired Massachusetts State Trooper and Homeland security expert.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure in one place. You think about the footprint of this entire area. You have a lot of different vulnerabilities. We have different considerations, such as an unattended vehicle that could stage itself right on the bridge. Is that something that is large enough? Box truck, tractor trailer that would have enough explosives in it that could potentially breach an iconic place such as the TD Garden," McGhee said.
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McGhee stood outside TD Garden and surveyed the area.
“This is an unlimited area of concerns. When we talk about security you want to think about layers. You want to think about pushing out those boundaries. So if there is a sensitive or place that may not have the most robust security you want to catch potential threats early on and away from the sensitive areas best as you can,” Mcghee said.
Going to a Celtics or Bruins game, or a concert at the TD Garden, security is strict as bags and coats are checked at the entrance. McGhee says there should be modifications.
“Pull it out a little bit and create layers. We understand there is going to be a choke point at every place especially going into a venue. The mindset is start your security long before the queuing of lines begins. Look for the people that look out of place. Look for the things that look out of place. In order to do that you need people. You need the resources of security to be trained to know what to look for,” McGhee said.
Police say the Manchester bombing appears to have happened in the foyer and a public space. They say the bomber took the tram to Manchester. Both Manchester and TD Garden are very similar venues, attached to a major commuter railway. McGhee says there are two issues: the person can take the train right into the footprint of the property undetected, and secondly, if they do drop a backpack with explosives, they can also escape quickly.
“People often sit and stage, I like to say they hide in plain sight. If the inner operations, security, contractors, construction workers, employees if they aren’t paying attention people can sit and gather information for hours and days on end,” McGhee said.
Just a year ago, the Boston Regional Intelligence Center issued a warning on terror attacks on entertainment venues, including bars and restaurants. It warns those soft targets are increasingly chosen over hard targets because they hold more significance to the victims and attackers.