NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A new safety initiative is targeting bars and nightclubs on Long Island in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Orlando.
Suffolk County police will be cracking down, making sure businesses are complying with occupancy and safety regulations.
“This is an attempt to make sure, God forbid something does happen, establishments are doing the right thing and people have the ability to get out,” Police Commissioner Tim Sini said.
Overcrowding and limited access to exits could put patrons at risk in emergency situations, Sini said.
“We’re going to make sure that the owners are playing by the rules,” Sini said. “We’ve analyzed terrorist attacks, active shooter situations and fire emergencies and one of the ways that you can mitigate harm and fatalities is to make sure that exits are clearly marked and are not locked or blocked.”
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, cops will be dropping in when the hot spots are bustling, not during off hours.
“This is a very simple, and direct initiative that can have a serious and significant impact on people’s risk,” Sini said.
Suffolk Police will partner with towns to make sure exit doors aren’t blocked or locked, and are clearly marked.
“This is a great time of year for everyone to enjoy the nightclubs, enjoy the bars and the Suffolk County Police Department will be out there in force to make sure that it’s safe for everyone,” Sini added.
The department is also increasing uniformed and plainclothes patrols.
“Those patrols will be both visible to serve as a deterrent and put people at ease,” Sini said. “There will be a presence that is not visible to civilians.”
Police insisted that it’s not a ‘gotcha’ program, but a reassurance to patrons in big crowds.
“We want to make sure residents feel safe and comfortable going out, as they should,” Sini said.
On June 12, 49 people were killed and more than 50 injured when a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
Witnesses at the club described how panicked patrons had trouble finding exits.
Police said knowing a way out of a crowd can save your life.
“You have to be able to run. If the emergency exits are blocked you really have no ability to hide in a club. It’s an open area,” Chief Stuart Cameron, Suffolk County Police, said.
The unannounced inspections were welcomed by the owner of the dockside night spot — The Oar.
“You gotta know a place is safe. I’ve been in places where I can’t find the exit,” Richard Blakeslee said.
Patrons too said these days it’s not hard to think about what if.
“I think it would be a deterrent for someone who would want to do something,” Kelly Kendrick said.
Police said there is not a specific threat to the region. They want people to feel comfortable knowing the place they’ve picked for summer fun is playing by the rules.