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Posted: January 31, 2017

Super Bowl security: From protests to prostitution, authorities are ready

The Super Bowl - By the Numbers

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By Jennifer Brett

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

HOUSTON —

Fans headed to the Super Bowl should expect to see strict security measures and a flood of law enforcement personnel, but the measures they don’t see are just as important.

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“We hope you don’t see us this week,” Perrye K. Turner, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Houston division, said during a joint news conference with local and federal officials. “But have no doubt we are there. Protecting our city is a partnership.”

More than 40 agencies are coordinating on security, and officials from various agencies repeated that there’s “no known credible threat” looming as the game nears.

“All eyes around the world will be on this event, so we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared,” said Chip Fulghum, the Department of Homeland Security’s acting undersecretary for management. “We’re prepared. As Vince Lombardi said, if we work together, we will win, and that’s what we’re doing.”

>> For complete coverage of Super Bowl LI, click here   

Fans won’t be able to tailgate outside the stadium before the Super Bowl and should expect security measures that are probably familiar to those who attend NFL games. No book bags, briefcases, coolers or large purses will be allowed. Women can bring in small clutch bags about the size of a hand. Prepare to go through a metal detector and a security pat-down.

“Security is always our top priority. We look to balance that with minimal inconvenience to fans,” Fulghum said. “We have visible security and behind-the-scenes security as well.”

The Houston Police Department serves as the lead agency in coordinating security efforts. Chief Art Acevedo said he gives security preparation an A-minus, only because there’s always room for improvement. There have already have been some Super Bowl-related arrests: some petty theft cases, pickpocket, a case of public intoxication and a man who tried to get in without proper ticketing, which turned out to be a mental health issue.

“We’ve made six trademark counterfeiting arrests ... that led to the seizure of 10,000 items with a retail value of $500,00,” he said. “We’re not going to let people steal intellectual properties.”

His department is focused on the issue of human trafficking. Arrests made for solicitation have already freed three women who said they were forced into prostitution, he said.

The police department, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and federal authorities also are mindful of the large protests that have sprung up around the country in opposition to President Donald Trump’s recent executive order on immigration and refugee resettlement. With all eyes on Houston on Sunday, it’s a good bet that demonstrators might seek to capitalize on the prominent event to elevate their message.

Acevedo said his department has a good relationship with local activists and is used to handling large protest uprisings. He warned people bent on destruction who might seek to infiltrate community protests that they will be outnumbered by activists, who don’t want their message hijacked by a few rogue elements with mayhem in mind.

Former Washington, D.C., Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who is now head of security for the National Football League, reminded fans to be vigilant, report anything suspicious and not to trust ticket scalpers.

“Buyer beware,” she said. “If you’re buying from a third party, you don’t know what you’re getting. Every year we have some very heartbroken fans.”


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