Friday, November 3, 2017

Back to Bollards

Photo from Conceptual Site

Here we go again. Another truck ramming attack in a city, this time New York. And again the politicians and the news media talking heads are going around and around about lone wolves, radicalization, human intelligence, and immigration. Good luck to them with getting all of that straightened out.

While they work on those big and complicated issues, the city planners and the architecturally-mined security types have a small and simple solution that would preclude such attacks on the most attractive targets, and thereby make this threat a good deal more manageable.

You know the answer - more bollards! They've already worked to prevent a mass killing in New York when a mentally disturbed person drove through Times Square. Surely this week's attack will convince the city to ramp up deployment of passive anti-ram barriers around high-traffic pedestrian venues. Well, maybe it will.

The attack could have been far worse if it had been executed just a little bit more efficiently. Sayfullo Saipov seems to have been aiming for school children, considering that his route led directly to a High School and he ended his attack by crashing into a school bus.

As a local resident told NPR:
"We have so many schools around this area," she said. "And it was shortly after 3 [p.m.]. It could have been worse if the police hadn't responded as quickly as they did."

Indeed. Or if Sayfullo Saipov, the sad sack Shahid that he was, hadn't lost his bag full of knives when he crashed the truck, leaving him with nothing but a pair of phony pistols in his hands when he jumped out of the truck searching for more victims.

At least one local politician, City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, is calling for the obvious first response to this increasingly-popular form of terrorism:
During Friday's conference, Rodriguez announced that he is planning to introduce legislation to require metal bollards along sidewalks with heavy pedestrian traffic, as well as in front of schools. He also told reporters that he envisions a Times Square entirely free of cars between 42nd and 47th Streets, and would support a DOT study to that effect. "I think we should look at the possibility," he said.

Why not? It wouldn't be the solution to everything but it would greatly reduce the opportunity for more truck ramming attacks on our most vulnerable places and people. Isn't that enough? Put another way, it would be "reasonable protection at a reasonable cost," as this astute security newsletter pointed out:
The real chance to increase public safety in this and in many similar soft-target scenarios, lies with the Security Designer and Civil Engineer: engineering and traffic controls, combined with architectural and security elements will reduce opportunity and increase means requirements. These classic Force Protection principles are neither cost-free nor 100% effective, but are wisely employed in a distributed fashion providing reasonable protection at a reasonable cost. When optimized for each municipality (or town, park, business), they will increase security and safety while limiting cost and potential liability.

Urban planning and public safety concerns are converging; hardening critical infrastructure has left smaller, softer targets (including pedestrian and bicycle paths) as low-hanging fruit for opportunistic perpetrators. Terrorist organizations have actively spread these targeting suggestions to their followers, and the threat will persist for the foreseeable future. This iteration of public security enhancement is in the hands of the planners, designers, architects, engineers, and Law Enforcement liaison personnel. Soft targets need not remain vulnerable, nor do they have to be transformed into unusable, unwelcoming space in order to provide safety.

Back to bollards, ladies and gentlemen.

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