Tampa Police increase presence at movie theaters

TAMPA — Tampa movie theaters are hiring extra police officers after a shooting at a Denver area theater early Friday morning claimed the lives of 12.

According to Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, the department doesn't have any information that a similar attack is planned in Tampa. But "we will increase patrols around Tampa theaters in an abundance of caution," she said in a statement.

Some Pinellas County moviegoers may notice more police around as well.

"We'll be providing extra patrols around the theater tonight and throughout the weekend," said Pinellas Park police Sgt. Brian Unmisig. "There'll be a noticeable presence."

In Colorado, a young man in a gas mask burst into a crowded theater during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, the latest Batman movie, hurled a gas canister and then opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring at least 50 others.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said that as of about noon Friday, it had not received any requests for extra deputy presence at movie theaters.

St. Petersburg Police and the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office also said that while they will remain vigilant, they knew of no plans to significantly increase patrols.

Movie theaters usually hire extra-duty officers on weekends. These uniformed officers often end up playing somewhat of a babysitting role, looking after unaccompanied teens and stopping people from sneaking into movies.

Some theaters hire a half dozen or more — largely at night.

On Friday, Tampa police say, some local theaters asked for extra-duty officers during the day.

Tampa police also said it plans to conduct "active shooter" training at area theaters soon.

This training — already offered at malls, large employers and schools — teaches people how to respond when a gunman attacks.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3433.

Tampa Police increase presence at movie theaters 07/20/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 20, 2012 2:50pm]

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