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What Might Have Been: More On Club Security

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MTV news talked with a security expert on the murder of Dimebag Darrell Abbott and three others at a Columbus rock club last week, which migh thave been prevented with a $50 handheld metal detector:

    “It should have been a common practice. It should have been something they had,” said Paul Wertheimer of Crowd Management Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in concert safety. “If it was used right, it would have caught the gun and you would have never heard about it. It would have been an item in the police blotter of the Columbus Dispatch.”

    ….”In any crowd, there’s going to be a certain percentage who are going to be troublemakers and ne’er-do-wells,” Wertheimer explained. “You have to plan for those, and now they may have weapons. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the concerts. It just means you have to take the necessary precautions to protect the public.”

    The first step in doing that is insisting that everyone submit to a search with a metal detector, either the large walk-through kind or the simple handheld device such as the one Wertheimer found online on posted on his Web site, www.crowdsafe.com. And no genre should be considered immune to violence, either.

    “I recently saw [pop-punkers] Mest at the House of Blues, and everybody went through metal detectors,” Wertheimer said. “Not because Mest fans are known to be violent, but just because it was a prudent thing to do. You just do it, and you do it as routine.”

    According to witnesses, the Alrosa Villa club didn’t use metal detectors

    ….”Security management is not rocket science,” admits Filippo Marino, managing director of Entertainment Security Professional Network, an offshoot of the larger corporate security firm Security Director LLC. “It does require a degree of common sense and commitment, which unfortunately some club owners are not willing to pursue.

    Marino said cost may not be the only determining factor when it comes to clubs using metal detectors. Instead, some club owners are more worried about their image than the safety of their patrons.

    “Most club owners will tell you that the moment you start having personnel at the door [with metal detectors], you’re sending a message that you’re dealing with a crowd that may be bringing in weapons, and therefore you’re lowering the quality of your image.”

    The Entertainment Security Professional Network was founded last year when executives at the parent company noticed “a particular lack of training and professional education” in concert venues and nightclubs, Marino said. So they started holding training seminars to ensure that security personnel are properly trained. In London, nightclub security guards are required to be certified, but there’s no such mandate in the U.S., where all too often a pair of menacing biceps are the only qualifications needed.

    “The biggest concern is a lack of standards in the concert industry,” Wertheimer said. “There is no national standard that addresses the safety of concertgoers. That’s why there seems to be so many safety lapses where common-sense solutions are obvious.”

    “The average bouncer or person working security, in terms of training, can probably claim to have a good workout schedule,” Marino said half-jokingly. “It’s a sad state of affairs.”

    Wertheimer said safety-conscious concertgoers should take note of not just the emergency exit locations, but also the preparedness of a venue’s security personnel.

    “Look for metal detectors,” he advised. “Look over the security. Ask yourself, ‘Are they professional? Do they treat you professionally and with respect? Are they watching the crowd or are they watching the band and looking at the pretty girls?’ … A black T-shirt and a flashlight does not a security guard make. Just because they’re there doesn’t mean you’re safe.”

In other words: pay attention to your environment wherever you go. It’s a dangerous world, and that dangerous world can follow you wherever you may go. Don’t be paranoid, be alert and think ahead.

Comprehensive coverage of the shootings and aftermath here.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://www.maybeiamwrong.blogspot.com Lono

    Ah, finally someone has brought up the issue of concert security here. Thanks Eric. I am not here to blame the concert security, but positively ask some questions. In all of the descriptions of the events, I never once read “… after tussling with security guards” or “… alert security guards spotted the individual and took appropirate action”.

    Now, I know that gun will beat a meathead (sorry, long time fan of rock… so obviously not a long time fan of meathead security guards) every time. I have not once seen security mentioned even in passing. It was a metal show, right? So I would imagine there were 2 or 3 300 pound guys at the front of the stage. Also, for general moshing and stagediving concerns… the crowd should have been kep back a good 8 to 10 feet from the front of the stage… with said meatheads manning the space between.

    in closing, I guess I should say not every secutity guard is a meathead, but almost all I have encountered are. That is a whole ‘nother Sociology term paper that I could deliver though.

  • Eric Olsen

    apparently no one even saw the gun until he was onstage shooting – clearly this was a security failure, but more so for the club in general to have not had any kind of metal detector or screening process, than of any individual guard who didn’t step in and tackle the fucker on his beeline to the stage

  • The Mad Hatter

    Everyone has apparently missed the point. A metal detector doesn’t do any good if the person with the gun doesn’t go through the door. Besides, if a planful of people let three people hijack it with a fucking boxcutter, who do you think is going to stop someone with a gun? Not many people in this morbidly obese, flaccid, decrepit country.

  • Bone

    I’m not willing to lay so much blame on the security crew. The killer jumped a fence and entered a backstage loading area. There is no way any type of metal detector would be practical in that situation. Another factor that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere is that some clubs, especially smaller ones, have had issue in the past with trigger-happy security guys beating kids to pieces for hopping up on the stage and grabbing a pick of a mic stand, so there may be just a second of hesitation before the guy decides to act when he sees someone approach the stage. Also the size of the venue and the size of the crowd are also an issue in this case. A show in a 450 seat venue cannot be expected to supply the same security measures as a 5,000 seat venue. While it is true that if this or that had been different, we wouldn’t have this situation, the practical reality is that no one can protect anything from all possible situations, and that somewhere between no security at all and too much security, an equallibrium is reached by factoring numerous issues such as size of crowd, type of crowd, cost of security crew, expected revenue, normally expected threat level, etc. I wouldn’t expect a 400 seat show to have much security at all. Besides, metal detectors would really bog things down at a metal concert….with all the bullshit hardware the fans wear on thier clothes. We must get away from blaming everyone under the sun for bad things that happen. There is but one person to blame for this whole thing. It’s not the gun maker, it’s not the club owner, it’s not the security crew, it’s not MTV, it’s not video games. It is the guy who left home with a gun in his hand, and thankfully, he has already been sent straight to hell for what he did.

  • Eric Olsen

    very perceptive points Bone, thanks very much. You are right in general, of course, about not being able to stop everything under all circumstances, but i do think we have to move the sliding scale a bit farther toward more security including more secure peripheries. Should the guy have been able to hop the fence and cruise through the back entrance so easily?