AUSTIN - A day after the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at an outdoor country concert in Las Vegas, Austin police plan to expand the security presence for ACL Festival, scheduled to begin Friday, Oct. 6.
At a press conference, Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said the tragedy in Nevada made them consider new threats and accept help from agencies like the Department of Public Safety.
"We can't come in on the day after an event like we just saw happen in Las Vegas, and not reconsider our plans and make sure that we are comfortable -- that we have addressed everything possible," Manley said.
Mayor Steve Adler said the event in Las Vegas is what Austin police officers have been training for.
"I think when you see an event that happens like the one in Las Vegas... it reaffirms all the work that you do, all the planning that's been done, all the preparation that we have been through. It reminds you that what we have already done is the right thing to be doing,” said Adler. "I'm really confident in the public safety professionals that we have working on our big events. A lot of training, a lot of drilling, a lot of preparation, I think everybody is ready to go, and I'm really confident."
Manley added that along with DPS, Austin police have reached out to the federal government, with hopes of getting help from them too.
"We will have plenty of officers [at ACL] that will be visible, and we'll also have plenty that will not be visible: strategically placed that will only come out if necessary to address any specific incidents," Manley said.
Through data from a regional intelligence center, Manley said, "no threats have been made against ACL Fest on social media" as of Monday, Oct. 2.
Manley noted that while the Austin Police Department's security plan will be strengthened this year, it's also important for people to be accountable for their own personal safety. For instance, he said attendees should definitely pay attention to their surroundings and know an escape route in the event of an emergency.
"As you move about the event, pay attention to where the exits are," Manley affirmed.
In regards to elevated spots near the park, where a shooter could potentially hide -- similar to the Las Vegas shooting -- Manley said they've already scoped out those locations.
"With Zilker park being positioned where it is, there are Condos on the north side of the bridge that would potentially have some visibility into the park -- not as much as you might think -- but our folks have already gone out and looked at the areas. We understand where if something similar were to be planned, where it would likely be planned from; and it's something we'll pay attention to," said Manley. "We live in a world now where you cannot protect against every single threat. We've seen that with people getting in vehicles and driving into crowds. We've seen that in what we saw in Las Vegas last night. So as a police department, and with all of our partners, federal state and local, we are working to address every threat that we can. But that's also why we're emphasizing the importance of personal safety."
Manley added that while fear shouldn't stop people from coming out to enjoy the festival, it's probably in their best interest not to overindulge in alcohol. Alcoholic drinks could stop someone from making good decisions in an emergency situation, he said.
"Come out to ACL as you planned. This is a yearly event that we have successfully managed here in Austin, and it has been conducted with safety. It is important to continue to do those things that we love," he said.
In fact, Manley said it could be one of the safest parts of the city during the next two weekends.
"There will be a large number of officers in a very concentrated area, at this festival, actually from that perspective it's going to be the safest part of the city to be in, during both weekends, just because of the sheer number of officers that will be present," said Manley.
"I've always felt safe going there. Like the security, they do a good job. There [are] metal detectors. They pat you down. I've never, ever been frightened or worried that security was lax, but even then I mean, this is Austin. It's a pretty chill place," said Adam Peyton, who has attended ACL Fest for the past six years.
As in Austin resident, Peyton plans to attend both weekends of ACL this year because his daughter’s school choir will be performing.
"My heart goes out to those people.. that something like that could happen. But you can't really spend your whole day fretting about the what ifs. There's so much great things out there; crazy is going to be crazy, and sadly it happens... I think people should just go through their lives like it was every day, and live each day as its own. I mean odds are you're probably going to get hit by a car in the city, than someone going crazy like that,” said Peyton.
Like in past years, Manley said one of the biggest concerns for festival-goers will be the congested roadways.
"ACL is usually, if anything else, more of a traffic issue for this city, just getting so many people into the entertainment area safely -- getting them in and out -- and that is what I expect that it will be this year. However, we are planning to have security assets in place, across the board," said Manley.
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