Unstoppable vehicle attacks are 'the new normal': security expert
Published Thursday, April 26, 2018 12:04PM EDT
Legislators can take away guns, close borders, institute background checks and pour money into mental health initiatives, but they can’t do much to prevent vehicle-related attacks such as the deadly one that occurred in Toronto, security experts say.
It’s a harsh reality that Europe has been grappling with in recent years, and one that Canadian legislators are under pressure to address after the deadly incident in Toronto’s Yonge and Finch neighbourhood on Monday, when 10 pedestrians were killed and 14 injured by a rented van that sped down the sidewalk.
“No matter what they do, they cannot prevent that from happening,” Alan Bell, president of the security firm Globe Risk International, told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday. “Unfortunately, it’s one of those things we have to learn to live with.”
Bell points out that Europe is trying its best to prevent vehicle-related attacks, after more than 100 people were killed in 10 such incidents over the past two years. Many cities are installing rows of knee-high pillars to protect pedestrian walkways and plazas, while lawmakers have passed or are looking to institute more stringent background checks at rental companies. Some are even calling for law enforcement to open up their records to rental companies, so at-risk individuals can be barred from acquiring a vehicle.
But all of those measures simply can’t stop someone with a clean record from renting a vehicle and driving it through a crowded area, Bell says.
“Those steps still don’t prevent the act (from occurring) when they leave the rental agency,” he said. “You can’t stop it.”
Bell blames the spike in vehicle-related violence on the Islamic State and its founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has encouraged members of the terror group to use vehicles to cause maximum carnage during terror attacks.
Police have said the Toronto incident does not appear to be terror-related.
But regardless of the motive, Bell says there’s very little that can be done to stop a determined person from carrying out a vehicle-related attack.
“We can’t change the dynamics of our city and the way our open roads work, just because occasionally someone attacks someone on the sidewalk,” he said.
Public safety analyst Chris Lewis echoed that sentiment in an interview with CTV National News.
“You just can’t stop some people from doing some things, no matter how hard you want to try and mitigate the issue,” he said.
“How do you stop everything?” he added. “The smallest car on the planet could kill several people very quickly if it hit them in a crowd.”
Bell suggests the best way forward might be to focus on reducing the speed of vehicles travelling in areas near pedestrians, by lowering speed limits and erecting more barriers between people and cars.
“If you can slow the traffic down you probably have a better chance of doing something,” he said.
Brian Peterson, of the Ontario Safety League, said he welcomes any move to improve the safety of pedestrians.
“I’m really confident that this issue is going to give us a chance to review that whole concept – crime prevention through environmental design,” he said.
With files from CTV National News reporter John Vennavally-Rao