For Tuscaloosa, Al., there are lessons to be learned from the terror that gripped Paris this month. After the Islamic State attacks, Mayor Walter Maddox took note of the Parisian security staff that prevented a suicide bomber from entering the French national soccer stadium. Maddox considered what could happen at at Bryant-Denny Stadium, where 100,000 people gather for University of Alabama football games, reports Stateline. He and terrorism specialists say chief executives and police departments in midsize U.S. cities may not realize that terrorism could put their people and infrastructure at just as much risk as high-profile targets like New York City and Washington, D.C. “The larger cities understand and grasp this,” Maddox said. “I'm not sure that at the midlevel cities the awareness is that high.”
Terrorism does happen in those places. This year, two men suspected of communicating with overseas terrorists were killed when they attempted to attack a free-speech event in Texas and a gunman killed four at a military recruiting center in Tennessee. In Wichita, Ks., where an airport worker was arrested after he tried a suicide attack in 2013, the 437-officer police force was struggling to stay fully staffed this summer. Security specialists say the ability to prevent and react well depends on a communication system and local counterterrorism efforts that are still underdeveloped, 14 years after 9/11. Chet Lunner, a consultant and former senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said most places probably lack the resources to prevent or respond to an attack. “You might think that all 50 states are responding to that kind of warning, but I'm not sure that they are at the appropriate level,” he said. The Paris attacks on “soft” targets like a restaurant and concert hall with minimal security should signal to U.S. local governments that they, too, could be at risk.