Analysis: Police limited in ability to prevent attacks like Las Vegas shooting

Dr. Tod Burke says there were many challenges facing police

By Tommy Lopez - Weekend Anchor / Reporter
David Becker/Getty Images

Police stand guard near Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino after a gunman opened fire at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas.

Police around the nation are looking at the challenges facing officers in situations like the shooting in Las Vegas. A local expert says there isn’t much police can do to prevent incidents like this.

Dr. Tod Burke, a criminal justice professor at Radford University, said there’s a lot at play when there’s an attack at an outdoor venue like the on the Strip.

“Outdoor concerts are a creature of their own from a police standpoint. You’re talking about setting up perimeters, keeping an eye on things," he said.

He said there were understandable difficulties in locating the shooter. The hotel was large and it was a disorienting situation for the people there.

“Police are responding, and they responded quickly. Then the difficulty is, where is the shooter or shooters?” he said.

The sound ricocheting off nearby buildings means it’s common for people not to be able to tell where the bullets are coming from.

“The confusion of eyewitnesses and ear-witnesses is not unusual and that’s under the best of circumstances. Here, you absolutely don’t have the best of circumstances," he said.

Burke added that there’s a limit to how effectively police can prevent incidents like this, in part because they were not already monitoring the gunman, who did not have a criminal history.

“If the person is not on their radar, then it makes it difficult for police to focus on an individual," he said.

Dr. Pepper Park is one outdoor venue for concerts in Roanoke. The staff released a statement today saying:

“We have a strong and evolving security plan that includes bag checks, state certified security officers inside and outside of the facility, off-duty police officers for larger events, and designated evacuation areas."

Burke said police planning for worst-case scenarios has to include coordinating with emergency response and medical crews. From what he’s seen, the response in Las Vegas was as good as it could have been under the circumstances.

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