Faith was in short supply in New York recently, when the Secret Service erected a temporary, eight-foot-tall steel fence along Central Park’s western edge for Pope Francis’s visit to the city.
The mile-long barrier had just a few openings along its length to allow public access to the park in the build-up to the event, and the whole fence was closed off entirely as the Pope prepared to visit the park for a full 20 minutes.
Security measures like this are rare and can only really be justified for the presence of an international celebrity who might be a target, such as the Pope or President Obama. For this papal visit, though, the US Secret Service went into overdrive and secured a perimeter well before the visit and imposed parking restrictions on the local streets.
The fencing had ‘anti-climb’ features, including gaps that are too small to accommodate hands and any support struts that could act as potential bolsters remaining on the inside. This fencing is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the added layer of protection it provides to the venue and the public members that can easily be injured when they attempt to scale a fence.
This opens up all kinds of potential legal problems that a solid approach to security can nip in the bud. However, anti-climb fencing can be erected and dismantled swiftly, so it is a viable option for most organisers.
Anti-climb fencing is useful at events, such as music festivals, notorious for people attempting to dodge security and the ticket price, and events in a public space or rural setting where a solid perimeter is hard to define. The Pope’s visit to Central Park is a perfect case in point, as the park covers 778 acres and its landscaped gardens make it a complex area to secure and defend.
With all the hi-tech options at the Secret Service’s disposal, it speaks volumes that they chose to go with a good ‘old-fashioned’ fence, albeit one with anti-climb properties. But, of course, there is no substitute for a solid barrier when you need to control a crowd.