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Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns

  • Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns

    Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned.

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Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. Andrew McQuillan accused the authorities of failing to do as much as they should to protect the public and called on the council to urgently make improvements.

He was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed details of a counter-terrorist assessment showing City Hall was extremely vulnerable to a car bomb or lone wolf attack involving knives or other weapons. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) identified the Christmas Market, which runs until December 23, as a “specific vulnerability”. The report will be discussed by the council’s strategic policy and resources committee today before it is debated at a full council meeting on December 4.

Mr McQuillan said: “I have worked on security at events across the UK, Europe and the US.

“The measures adopted in Northern Ireland just aren’t as good as those elsewhere, which is surprising given the significant paramilitary threat we faced in the recent past.

“Security at the Winter Wonderland event in London is phenomenal and that at the Christmas markets in Birmingham and Manchester is also very high.

“The measures in place at Belfast City Hall’s market lag seriously behind and this must be urgently addressed.

“We should not bury our heads in the sand . There are steps which can be taken immediately to improve the situation.”

The council has installed large planters on the pavement outside City Hall “to provide some protection in case of a vehicle-born attack” . But Mr McQuillan said that while the measure was welcome it wasn’t nearly enough. He suggested that protection could be enhanced if interlocking red-and-white security barriers were placed around City Hall . He added: “These have been placed at bridges in London before permanent barriers go up.

“They are filled with water and sand and are very cheap to erect.

“NaCTSO is a highly respected organisation . They have highlighted weaknesses and Belfast City Council really should move swiftly to implement their recommendations.”

Mr McQuillan, who owns Crowded Space Drones and whose father Alan was a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, said there was a dangerous complacency in Northern Ireland about the dangers of an attack at a public venue. He added: “Just because we had republican and loyalist violence in the past doesn’t exempt us from international terrorism . Some claim on social media that reporting the threat here is scaremongering.

“These people have no awareness whatsoever of public safety at events . A report from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office is not scaremongering . It has to be taken seriously.”

Mr McQuillan also claimed it was wrongly argued that increased security would mean Northern Ireland was returning to the past.

He said: “What these people ignore is that armed police at Christmas markets in England is very normal and England usually has an unarmed police force.

“We are dealing with a new emerging threat . Not updating and changing your plans is just not smart . It is waving a red flag at a bull.

“People can choose to inhabit a bubble but it doesn’t reflect the world we live in . No risks should be taken with major events.”

Mr McQuillan said the council could apply to have the national barrier asset system deployed – temporary high-grade security fencing which protects high-profile locations or events. He added: “I feel sorry for the council as the market’s location at City Hall isn’t the easiest to protect . We really need to talk about the issue .

Ignoring it doesn’t make our vulnerability go away.

“Making security at your event look visibly as hard as possible is a great deterrent for terrorists who are hunting vulnerable targets”.

Belfast Telegraph


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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Balloons, bands and tight security

The Macy’s Thanksgiving1 Day Parade featured balloons, bands, stars and heavy security – as thousands gathered for the annual tradition. With new faces and old favorites in the lineup, the Americana extravaganza made its way through two miles of Manhattan on a cold morning.

The crowds are still the same, but there’s a lot more police here . That’s the age we live in, Paul Seyforth said as he attended the parade he’d watched since the 1950s.

Not a lot’s changed the balloons, the bands, the floats and that’s the good thing, said Seyforth, 76, who’d flown in from Denver to spend his 50th wedding anniversary in New York and see this year’s parade. The televised parade was proceeding smoothly, though about midway through, a gust of wind on a largely calm day blew a candy-cane balloon into a tree branch, and it popped near the start of the route on Manhattan’s Upper West Side . No one was injured.

In 2005, one of the parade’s signature giant balloons caught a gust, hit a Times Square lamppost and injured two people . The candy cane was smaller than the giant balloons. Timothy McMillian and his wife, their 9-year-old daughter and his in-laws started staking out a spot along the route at 6:30 a.m . They’d come from Greensboro, North Carolina, to see in person the spectacle they’d watched on TV for years.

McMillian, a 45-year-old schoolteacher, booked a hotel months ago, but he started to have some concerns about security when a truck attack on a bike path near the World Trade Center killed eight people on Halloween.

With the event being out in the open like this, we were concerned, he said . But we knew security would be ramped up today, and we have full confidence in the NYPD. Authorities say there is no confirmation of a credible threat to the parade, but they were taking no chances after both the truck attack and the October shooting that killed 58 people at a Las Vegas country music festival. Four activists jumped over barriers and briefly sat down in the street at about 9:10 a.m .

to protest the end of a program that extended protections to immigrants brought illegally to the U.S . as children, according to a spokesman for activist group Cosecha . Police quickly escorted them back . No one was arrested and the parade was not delayed. New York Police Department officers with assault weapons and portable radiation detectors were circulating among the crowds, sharpshooters were on rooftops and sand-filled city sanitation trucks were poised as imposing barriers to traffic at every cross street . Officers also were escorting each of the giant balloons.

The mayor and police brass have repeatedly stressed that visitors shouldn’t be deterred . And Bekki Grinnell certainly wasn’t.

When your kid from Alaska is marching in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you come, said Grinnell, whose daughter was marching with the band from Colony High School in Palmer, Alaska . Grinnell said she wasn’t worried about security because of the police presence: I think we’re in a safe spot. Other paradegoers also showed their appreciation for police: The NYPD marching band and a group of mounted officers got some of the biggest cheers from spectators lined up as many as 15 deep along barricades . Among other crowd favorites: as did the SpongeBob SquarePants balloon.

The 91st annual parade featured new balloons including Olaf from the Disney movie Frozen and Chase from the TV cartoon Paw Patrol will be among the new balloons Thursday, along with a new version of the Grinch of Dr . Seuss fame. Smokey Robinson, The Roots, Flo Rida and Wyclef Jean were among the stars celebrating, along with performances from the casts of Broadway’s Anastasia, Dear Evan Hansen and SpongeBob SquarePants . The lineup included a dozen marching bands, as well as the high-kicking Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and, of course, Santa Claus.

This is my favorite thing ever, musician Questlove told The Associated Press as he got ready to ride the Gibson Guitars float with his bandmates in The Roots and late-night host Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show, where The Roots are the house band .

Questlove said being in the parade is probably my favorite perk of the job.

To go from being a spectator to being up here, it’s kinda cool, he said.

Added singer-songwriter Andy Grammer as he got on the Homewood Suites float: It’s kind of like being at the center of Thanksgiving.

Associated Press

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade: Balloons, Bands And Tight SecurityReuse content2


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Face of shoplifter who threatened Loughborough security staff with dirty syringe

A prolific shoplifter who threatened security staff with a dirty syringe has been sent to jail. Jolene Laing appeared at Leicester Crown Court1 yesterday and was jailed for two years. The 38-year-old had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to seven counts of theft, battery, common assault, racially or religiously aggravated public order and two public order offences.

Leicestershire Police2 released details of the case this afternoon.

The force said Laing, of no fixed address, threatened security staff with a used syringe when they challenged her.

Police released this custody image of Laing

The offences were committed in Loughborough 3between August and October this year.

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Pc Mike Green, beat officer for Loughborough town centre, said: We are pleased with this conviction.

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Latest crime news

It demonstrates our commitment to tackling crimes that impact our towns and have a knock-on effect on businesses.

Laing is a prolific shoplifter who has continued to commit offences.

On one occasion she threatened staff and security with a dirty syringe after they challenged her and subjected them to abuse.

She has been known locally to be hostile towards officers and the local business community.

We hope this conviction and sentence goes some way to helping her mend her ways.


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