GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The terrorist attacks in Paris that killed more than 120 people have already led to beefed-up security at some major venues across the U.S., including all NFL games.
They also have officials taking a close look at security even here in West Michigan. But on Monday, a local terrorism expert cautioned against overreacting.
“The people they were killing were not necessarily the targets. We were the targets,” Grand Valley State University Professor Jonathan White, a terrorism expert, said. “That’s the nature of terrorism and the nature of modern war.”
Not surprisingly, he said, fear is a weapon that terrorists count on. That’s why White, who has worked as a government consultant on terrorism, warned against kneejerk security changes.
“I think that would be overblown,” he said. “That’s exactly what terrorists want to do. They want to symbolically kill as many people as possible in a most horrific way to frighten everybody else.”
White was a consultant for the federal government after the Sept. 11 attacks, traveling the U.S. to brief police on international terrorism.
He said security should stay the same — vigilant — at places like DeVos Place Convention Center and Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids.
“If you have information about a credible threat, you make changes,” he said. “At this point, no.”
He said he’s not aware of any credible ISIS threat in the U.S.
White said the bombing last month of a Russian airliner over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which experts attribute to ISIS, appears to have marked a shift in strategy.
“That indicates a significant turning point in their strategy,” he said. “They’re becoming an international terrorist group with international aspirations.
“Paris represents just another extension of that,” he continued.
White said it’s only a matter of time before ISIS strikes U.S. soil, though it was far more likely to happen in France.
“This could happen in the U.S. and I imagine it will eventually happen in the United States, but we don’t have an aggressive militant population,” he said. “The French have an element of their community that is dissatisfied, aggressive and militant.”
DK Security, which provides security at venues like DeVos Place and Van Andel Arena, is working with Grand Rapids police to see what they can learn from Paris.
“It could literally happen at a huge arena, it could happen at a small community college,” DK Security Executive Vice President Kathryn Kendall said. “You just never know, so everyone is trained similarly.”
Kendall wouldn’t say what, if any, specific security changes are being discussed about at local venues.