RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The California shooting massacre at the Borderline Bar and Grill highlights a vulnerability communities across the country are forced to talk about- soft targets. If an active shooter is aiming to gun down innocent people in a public place, they very well may succeed.
NBC12’s On Your Side Safety team looked into what’s being done to keep our local venues secure. With Richmond's nationally-recognized bar and restaurant scene, this is certainly a concern.
"It was tragic and it really does hit home,” said Jake Crocker, who owns F.W. Sullivan’s and multiple other restaurants across Richmond.
Crocker said he's ramped up security after watching multiple mass shootings unfold across the country.
"We sensed that there was more activity going around that we weren’t sure would be a positive thing. We’ve always taken a proactive stance, but we definitely took a little harder look, earlier this year,” said Crocker.
Crocker has up to five bouncers working on busy nights wearing bright orange shirts to let everyone know the place is staffed heavily with visible security. Backpacks and other large bags (typically unusual to be carried at a bar, anyway) aren’t allowed inside. Although, women may bring in purses.
Crocker also upgraded security cameras both inside and outside of the building. This way, he says management can see who is approaching, or even just nearby.
"We watch the alleys,” said Crocker, looking at the video feed from the security cameras on his smart phone. “We're very proactive in our approach to security,” he said.
Many bar and restaurant owners wrestle with whether to have armed security, or to pat-down, bag search, and use metal detectors on patrons, before they enter. This practice is common at nightclubs in bigger cities. Some of Richmond’s downtown clubs use these measures. But other pubs and bars, generally in Richmond’s other neighborhoods that don’t experience as much crime, may chose not to elevate security to that level- yet.
Crocker said that while heavier security can diminish threats, it can also diminish customers. "As soon as you start putting in metal detectors, and pat-downs… it actually deters business,” said Crocker.
But Crocker said he did use armed security at his former restaurant in Fredericksburg.
"They would always be armed with a vest,” he said.
Off-duty Richmond police officers are also hired for security at nearly a dozen different bars in Richmond, wearing full uniform and carrying firearms. They’re paid by the establishment. Any time a bar or restaurant has a visible presence of an officer, it likely deters crime, according to a Richmond police spokesperson. Establishment that wish to hire “extra-duty officers” can visit this site.