Unprecedented security planned for Thunder Over Louisville - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Unprecedented security planned for Thunder Over Louisville

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - "Throwback Thunder" may be the official theme of this year's Thunder Over Louisville, but "Safety First" appears to be the event's overriding theme.

On Monday, the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky Derby Festival announced unprecedented security for Thunder's 25th anniversary in light of recent violence downtown.

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"We're going to have over 1,150 law enforcement officers involved in executing our traffic and security plans this year -- more than ever before," said LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, who estimated that number was an increase of more than 150 officers. "We're going to have people out there from the Kentucky National Guard helping us with traffic. We're going to have the Kentucky State Police helping us deal with the crowds. We're going to have the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, who always play a prominent role in Thunder and many of these events every year, helping us with the crowds. Metro Corrections is going to be involved in helping us. The Metro Department of ABC [will be] making sure we don't have any alcoholic beverage control problems, and they're going to be supplemented by Kentucky ABC. This is truly, truly a team effort of people coming together and working together to make things safe."

Conrad also pointed out that 26 surveillance cameras are being installed at Waterfront Park as part of efforts to boost security there after teenagers used Facebook to organize a violent mob that terrorized people at the park and elsewhere downtown on March 22.

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"They are in the process of being installed now. We're hoping to be testing them today or tomorrow, and our hope is to have them operational Wednesday or Thursday at the latest."

Conrad said the cameras would be monitored throughout Thunder and beyond.

Thunder threat

In reference to 18-year-old Cameron Malone, who's accused of posting threats of gun violence at Thunder, Conrad said, "Mr. Malone is still in custody as of today, and I am told he should be there through Thunder. We continue to monitor social media. As of today, there are no threats regarding Thunder Over Louisville, but that is something that we will continue to monitor right on up to and through the event."

In addition to staffing unprecedented security, Conrad is making what may be an unprecedented request of parents.

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"I don't know that we've asked for [this] in the past," Conrad said. "I want to ask parents to accompany their minor children to Thunder this year. Thunder is truly a great family-friendly event, and I believe that we want all young people to enjoy this event. We want all young people to be safe at this event, and that safety begins with proper parental supervision."

The chief also said LMPD has been working to organize a group of volunteers to serve as easy-to-find ambassadors on the waterfront.

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"They'll be wearing neon colored shirts," said Conrad, "and these ambassadors will be helping us deal with young people who, at least in their opinion, are having some problems maybe controlling their behaviors."

Conrad said the force hoped to have 40 such ambassadors in place for Thunder. They are still looking for volunteers. Anyone who would like to volunteer to become an ambassador should call LMPD's Special Operations Division at 502-574-7454.

Lost and found

Helping lost children or lost parents find their way back to each other is another top priority.

"Should you find a child while you're at Thunder or should you lose a child while you're at Thunder, please go to the nearest law enforcement officer," Conrad said. "That officer will be able to help reconnect you with your child or will be able to help that child find their parents."

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Conrad reminded the public of a missing children's center that is set up each year inside the Galt House Hotel. Anyone who loses a child can check there to see if the child has shown up.

Keeping up with the coolers

Police are also urging the public to keep up with their belongings at Thunder.

"You're going to be bringing in coolers and backpacks and diaper bags and all of those things to Thunder," Conrad said. "If you walk away from that stuff, it might cause concerns for other people. They might see an abandoned item and believe that it is there for reasons that might not be good."

Conrad said law enforcement would respond to those kinds of false alarms, so he encouraged people not to leave their belongings unattended to cut down on the number of unnecessary runs. Nevertheless, he urged Thunder-goers to report anything they consider suspicious.

"We're going to be down there doing what we need to do to keep Thunder safe," Conrad said, "but this is a community event, and it's going to be a community effort to keep it safe."

Conrad said members of the public can always report suspicious activity to an officer on the scene, but if they can't locate one immediately, they should call 502-574-LMPD or, in the event of a true emergency, call 911.

"There is no day, no day of the year, that we are better prepared downtown to handle a problem," Conrad said. "We have many, many plans to address any contingency you might imagine. Thunder is a day we are truly ready for anything."

Traffic plan

Also on Monday, the Louisville Metro Police Department unveiled its traffic plan for Thunder.

"The interstates will be rerouted about 8:30 [p.m.]. The full traffic plan will kick in about 9:30," said Lt. Joe Seeley, supervisor of the LMPD Traffic Division. "Muhammad Ali from Clay to 9th Street and 2nd Street from Main to River [Road] will become an emergency route. You will be allowed to cross those streets as long as there is not an emergency occurring."

Seeley pointed out one significant difference in this year's traffic plan.

"The I-64 east to 65 south ramp is obviously not available anymore," Seeley said, "and I expect that we would have more people using our southern routes and our western routes to get out of the venue, so it's going to be hugely important that people preplan."

Seeley also urged people to leave their valuables at home or hide them in their vehicles to deter criminals from breaking into cars. He also stressed the importance of alerting police to anything that looks suspicious.

"If you see something, say something," Seeley said. "We're Louisvillians. We're strong. We're not going to allow any group to prevent us from coming to use our downtown."

Thunder Over Louisville airs exclusively on WAVE 3 News this year on April 12.

Copyright 2014 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.

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