Ramped up security measures for Rogers Centre, ACC 'the new normal,' expert warns

New security measures in place for the first time Thursday for the Toronto Blue Jays home opener are all part of protecting people in a world where 'people in cars can run through crowds and take out people, a security expert says.

Roads closed to traffic, increased police presence for Jays games

Police are beefing up security at Jays games this season. (Barry Smith/CBC)

New security measures in place for the first time Thursday for the Toronto Blue Jays home opener, are all part of "the new normal," a security expert has told CBC Toronto.

Phil Gurski, security consultant and former strategic analyst at CSIS, says the beefed up police presence and road closures are partly a response to a more dangerous world.

"We're now in a society where people in cars can run through crowds and take out people," he told CBC Toronto. "It's happened all over the world, including here in Canada, so it can't be ignored."

Stretches of road from Spadina Avenue in the west to Bay Street in the east, and Front Street in the north to Queens Quay in the south will be closed off to traffic for the games, except for residents and businesses with special security parking passes.

Anyone down in the area will also notice large concrete barriers along sidewalks and in the median strip between lanes — placed there to keep any traffic that might be going through in check for the safety of pedestrians.

Concrete barriers can be seen along the edge of sidewalks around the Rogers Centre to protect pedestrians, police say. (Barry Smith/CBC)

Fans will also notice more police officers on the streets during games.

It's the 'reality of life in 2018,' John Tory says

"I just think it's part of the unfortunate reality of life in 2018," Mayor John Tory said on Thursday.

Various police services along with "security agencies" made the recommendations to Rogers and the Air Canada Centre, but it was ultimately the venues that chose whether to adopt them or not, explained Tory.

Mayor John Tory says the new security measures put in place during Jays games came from recommendations from police and security agencies. (Barry Smith/CBC)

"What you see was largely what was recommended," he said.

"I think people who live downtown, many of whom don't actually drive cars — which is why they live there — I think they understand."

Gurski says there are two reasons why the recommendations were made. Either there was a specific threat or other incidents of terrorism around the world are causing authorities to practise "due diligence."  

"Doing nothing is no longer an option," he said. "We're not going to panic, but going back to the era where there were no checks — where you got onto airlines without going through any scanners — those days are gone and [are] probably never going to come back."

Phil Gurski, a security expert who formerly worked with CSIS, says heightened security measures in Toronto are 'the new normal.' (Phil Gurski)

One person who is welcoming the changes is Rachel Kilian, the general manager of St. Louis Bar and Grill, a restaurant close to the Rogers Centre on Bremner Boulevard.

"It helps make traffic easier and means my staff gets here on time," she laughed.

Although this is the first day of these security measures, Kilian says roads were being closed off late in the season last year.

"They need to shut down certain streets just to get the fans in and out properly," she said, adding traffic would get so bad during games "even emergency cars couldn't get through."  

On Thursday, the roads were be closed both before and after the game, but for most games the roads will only be closed for a time at the end.

However, depending on time of day, day of the week, or when events are happening simultaneously at the Rogers Centre and ACC, the frequency and time the roads are shut down may change, police say.