BILLINGS — Police departments are on high alert this weekend with holiday parades scheduled across the country, after five people were killed in Waukesha, Wisconsin, last weekend when a man drove an SUV through the annual Christmas Parade.
"This could happen anywhere, anytime," said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John. "Someone like that only has to get lucky. We need to be right all the time."
St. John hasn’t had any big incidents at the Billings event over the years, and he’s hoping to keep it that way, especially in an area that’s come under scrutiny.
"We were always going to have additional officers throughout the holiday season," St. John said. "Part of our campaign for the public safety mill levy that just passed was to help with the perception or reality of safety issues downtown. This is an opportunity to get out and be seen."
Officers will be particularly careful at intersections.
"If you have a vehicle that decides to drive through the parade, it's going to go through one of those," he said. "With our partners at Public Works, we have added barricades to the parade routes, and we also have additional staffing on foot and in patrol units as well."
But all in all, St. John expects a great night for a beloved community event.
"I'm not anticipating any problems," he said. "We have no threats on the radar, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some crazy out there thinking about something, so we need to be prepared just in case."
The parade starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Second Avenue North and North 32nd Street, just south of the Granite Tower. Click here for the parade staging map.