Anti-terrorism barriers will be coming back

The city has come up with new rules for placing anti-truck concrete blocks

Anti-terrorist concrete barriers are likely to return and be in more places. The City Council approved guidelines for them to be used in the future at the intersection of Wenceslas Square with Opletalova Street, at Jindřišská and Vodičkova streets as well as at the horseshoe at the bottom of the square.

Other barriers will be in Old Town Square near the mouth of Pařížská Street, at náměstí Republiky in front of the Palladium shopping center, at Maiselova and Jeruzalémsk streets, and Mariánské hradby.

The office of the City Hall director is in charge of their placement, which can be requested by the police, crisis staff or the Ministry of the Interior.

The concrete blocks will also be automatically placed around the city when a second degree or higher level of terrorist threat is announced. The country has a scale from zero to three, with zero being no detected threat and three being imminent danger.

Barriers are now permanently at Prague Castle and the Royal Summer Palace (Belvedere).

Barriers were placed around Old Town Square and Wenceslas Square during Advent, while the popular Christmas Markets were open.

"We consulted with ČVUT (Czech Technical University) students on the principles of placing the blocks,” Libor Hadrava, the city councilor for security and crime prevention, said, according to daily Metro.

The city has borrowed concrete barriers in the past but later decided to buy 133 blocks including rails and traffic signs for about Kč 631,000. Tthe city saved about Kč 388,000 in five months due to the purchase. Installation comes at no extra cost since existing city services and vehicles are used.

Some private companies have also put up barriers, such as the operators of the business center at Anděl. A representative said the move was common practice now across Europe and not in response to a specific threat.

The barriers are in response to several international incidents when a truck or large vehicle was driven into a crowd to cause casualties. These attacks have taken place in France, Britain, Spain and Sweden, among other countries. There have been attacks in the US, Canada, and Australia as well, Not all of the attacks have been terror-related.

A truck attack in Nice, France, resulted in the deaths of 86 people and the injury of 458 others.

The first recorded use of a truck to commit mass murder was in 1973 in then-Czechoslovakia when Olga Hepnarová drove into a crowd at a tram stop in Prague, killing eight people. She suffered from mental illness and the incident was not terror-related. Hepnarová was executed in 1975.

The barriers are not the first security steps against terrorism. Prague Castle has been inspecting bags and searching all visitors since August 2016, often resulting in long lines. The Castle administration has been working to streamline the process.

A security threat scale was introduced in January 2016, with different steps for each of the four levels. A list of possible targets has also been compiled by the government. Exercises and drills also take place, and the emergency siren system is tested on the first Wednesday of every month.

The security level has gone from zero to one several times following incidents across Europe, but so far has not gone higher.

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