DALLAS -- Barely 48 hours after a suspected drunken driver plowed into a crowd at Austin’s South By Southwest festival, the streets of Greenville Avenue will be filled with as many as 125,000 partygoers and revelers for the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
It raises a question: Could tragedy strike here?
“We are very much aware of the tragic event that occurred in Austin,” said Dallas police Deputy Chief Gary Tittle, who is overseeing preparations for the block party. “We are planning for the worst, of course, and hoping for the best.”
Police will have about 150 officers on hand for the block party event. Authorities will block off Greenville and Belmont Avenues and McCommas Boulevard to prevent cars from getting too close to the crowds.
For the first time, police also are barring anyone from bringing backpacks into the block party. That’s largely in response to last year’s bombing of the Boston Marathon.
Kevin Vela, chairman of the Greenville Avenue Area Business Association, is heading up the parade preparations. He said organizers have reviewed safety precautions for the event in light of what happened in Austin.
“There's no parking anywhere near the parade and all of the main entrances into the parade route will be closed off very early,” Vela said Friday as he gathered with friends to build a float of a mock cruise ship. “So we hope that nothing like that could ever happen here, but we have made every possible plan to be ready for something like that.”
Tittle also cautioned partygoers not to engage in too much drunken revelry.
“We’re good with them having a good time, but at the same time, we want to warn everyone that intoxication, driving, being a danger to themselves and others, it is not the safe way to play,” he said. “We encourage them to have designated drivers and to simply consume in moderation.”