Local News
12:54 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Churchill Downs and Louisville Metro Police Outline Kentucky Derby, Oaks Security Plans

Churchill Downs officials, Louisville Metro Police and others discuss security plans for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
Credit Joseph Lord/WFPL

It's becoming a common refrain.

As with Thunder Over Louisville, Louisville Metro Police are urging attendees to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks to report suspicious activity, in a bid to heighten security after last week's bombing at the Boston Marathon.

"If you see something, say something," said Maj. Kelly Jones of Louisville Metro Police. "Find the nearest police officer, tell him or her, 'Hey it doesn't look right,' or, 'This is suspicious,' or, 'It bothers me.' We'll be happy to address it. That's why we're here—to serve the public and make sure everybody is safe."

Police and Churchill Downs executives on Tuesday outlined security and transportation plans for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, which in 2012 drew 165,307  (a record) and 112,552, respectively.

Changes include an increased security presence at the entrance gates to Churchill Downs, plus additional sheriff's deputies on the backside, where the barns are located.

The lot used for taxis is also moving from Gate 17 to Central Avenue between Third and Fourth streets, Lt. Joe Seelye, commander of the LMPD Traffic Unit. (Seelye also cautioned against the practice of unlicensed taxis and of using golf carts to carry people—neither are allowed.)

About 1,200 law enforcement officials will be at the track for Derby. 

But authorities said the changes aren't drastic and, for the most part, won't be noticeable to the public. They have some experience with the large crowds, they say.

"Our entire team, including the Churchilll Downs security team and our staff, we're prepared," Churchill Downs President Kevin Flanery said.

"We've done this Derby 138 times. This will be the 139th. It's really about everyone working together. The law enforcement officials, the people working here at the racetrack—and the fans and the patrons."

The additional security at the gates is to address the list of stuff people can bring into Churchill Downs, which was expanded last week after the Boston Marathon bombing to include items such as coolers and cameras with detachable lenses.

Despite the additional prohibited items, officials said that lines to get into Churchill Downs may not be longer because of the prohibition of coolers, which took up a good deal of time to sort through in previous years, officials said.

So, back to see something, say something. Particularly in the infield for the Derby and Oaks, "suspicious" and "doesn't look right" are relative to the person.

But what does see something, say something mean in the context of the races? 

"I kind of liken it to going to the airport," Jones said.

"If it's sitting around for a longtime or for a while and nobody's claimed it, there's something odd about that. Either somebody's forgot it or someone's left it there on purpose.I think it just applies as human nature. If it looks odd or out of place or someone hasn't claimed it, then get a hold of a law enforcement officer and have it checked out."

For police, the see something, say something refrain "made our jobs easier" during Saturday's Thunder Over Louisville, Jones added.

Louisville Metro Police has posted traffic changes for the Derby and Oaks on May 4 and May 3.

Following the Derby, LMPD will have a "Derby City Crime Prevention Detail" that will dispatched where ever issues arise at entertainment districts throughout the city, police said.