During the protests and riots in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month, one woman was killed when a 20-year-old man drove a car into a crowd of people marching. Such intentional acts are known as vehicle terror attacks, or vehicle-assisted terrorism, and it’s on the rise across the globe.
Last July, a terrorist drove a cargo truck into a crowd of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, killing 86 and injuring hundreds others. Several months later, a terrorist drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market, killing 12 people. Vehicle terror attacks seem to be the recent method of choice for terrorists wishing to inflict violence upon the masses, but there are ways local governments can safeguard their cities.
#1 Erect Barriers in Public Spaces
After the attack in Berlin, officials began discussing how to protect their citizens from future attacks, and the obvious answer was to limit the amount of open public space, according to Ruth Reed, the head of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) planning group and its former president.
There will be a degree of reassessment of public open space inevitably after Berlin. I think that will happen all over Europe, not just here,” she said. “The British approach has always been to put in a degree of protection. They may want to think about increasing it – but it can be done discreetly.”
In the U.S., many military bases and governmental buildings have “crash- and attack-resistant bollards” in place outside as safety measures, some that can stop vehicles traveling up to 50 mph.
#2 Construct Safety Measures that Avoid a Bunker Mentality
While instinct might be to construct giant barriers that block public spaces from view and limit access to motor vehicles, that would be a win for the terrorist, according to Reed.
It’s not just the point of obstruction,” she said. “The important thing for public sanity really is that we don’t let this kind of anti-terrorism provision cloud our thinking because, if we develop some kind of bunker mentality, we’ve actually let them win.”
Instead, Reed proposes security measures be implemented into the design of a space or building, such as a large stone statue bearing the name of the organization that also doubles as a barrier. The key is to provide the security without giving in to fear.
We want people to be able to go about their normal working and leisure times blissfully unaware that there is a risk that has been considered and reduced or eliminated. That’s the really important thing to say,” she said.
#3 Place Practical Limits on Security
As vehicle terror attacks have increased, so have security measures around the world, from invisible barriers to location awareness. However, nothing is foolproof, and with each attack, lessons must be learned.
You try to protect yourself from any possible risk, but there will always be something that creeps through. With terrorism you’re always playing a game of catch-up in some respects and this is where lessons learned from across the world become important.”