At last January's Super Bowl, Tampa police employed a new
criminal-catching technique. With cameras mounted near entrances
to Raymond James Stadium, the authorities took a digital image
of every fan as he entered and compared the image with those of
1,700 known criminals, from common thieves to terrorists, in a
database assembled from state and federal police files. ACLU
lawyers called the procedure an unlawful invasion of privacy and
have called for congressional hearings on the use of such
Sitting in his office in Tampa last week after the terrorist
attacks in New York City and Washington, police major K.C.
Newcomb, who gave the go-ahead to the Super Bowl
facial-recognition project, recalled the ACLU's criticism. "We
took a lot of heat," says Newcomb, "but now it looks as if it's
something we should have in every stadium and arena in America."
Facial-recognition systems are one of several ideas being
discussed that would alter security arrangements at sports
venues. Major League Baseball and the NFL announced changes
following the attacks, including restrictions on what fans can
bring into stadiums (baseball has banned coolers, backpacks and
large bags, and some NFL teams have taken similar measures), an
increased police presence and closer inspection of fans as they
enter. (Be prepared for a search of any bag you bring to a
game.) Security experts, however, view those as short-term
solutions. "Historically, sporting events haven't been
considered targets," says Robert McCrie, a criminal justice
professor at John Jay College in New York City and an expert on
public security who has consulted on the operations of several
pro teams and venues, including the Yankees and Madison Square
Garden. "Now they have to be seen that way, and that changes how
we look at security." McCrie and other experts offer suggestions
for how teams and venues might bolster public safety.
--I.D. cards for season-ticket holders, permitting them to enter
venues through a separate gate. Single-game ticket buyers,
considered more of a threat because of their anonymity, would be
searched and wanded for weapons and explosives.
--Seven-day-a-week control of access. Many college stadiums are
open to students and tourists when events aren't held, and some
pro venues offer tours amid a constant flow of maintenance
workers, deliverymen and cleanup crews. "People should be
required to have credentials to be in the stadium, even if it's
not the day of a game," says Jim Muldoon, assistant commissioner
of the Pacific-10. Bomb-detecting dogs would be used in nightly
sweeps of all large venues.
--Restricted air space during events. "Anyone who has seen the
Minneapolis skyline knows the Metrodome is the most inviting
target," says Bill Lester, who manages the home of the Twins,
the Vikings and the University of Minnesota football team, and
is president of the Stadium Managers Association. "I would be
for restricting flights."
--More law-enforcement officers, fewer private guards. "Too
often security is left to those not trained to do the job," says
Bill Rathburn, a former deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police
Department who headed security for the Atlanta Olympics and is
now a consultant. "Law enforcement needs to be more involved in
the planning and execution of security at sports events. It's
not good enough for the police to say it's a private event that
collects money, so it's not our problem. Security should be
viewed as a public service."
Teams and site managers have long debated the viability of having
every fan pass through a metal detector. During the gulf war in
1991, Tampa police tried to do that at the Super Bowl, "but we
realized people were going to miss kickoff so we had to stop,"
Newcomb says. Before last week most teams considered such a step
unnecessary. Future stadiums and arenas, however, could have
detectors built into the structure, expediting the process.
Other security ideas address arena workers. The developers of Los
Angeles's Staples Center, site of the 2000 Democratic Convention,
consulted the Secret Service and other experts while putting
together building plans, and the arena's access system is
considered one of the best of its kind. Some Staples workers must
pass through two checkpoints, one of which is linked to a
computer that won't allow a staffer to enter if he's more than 30
As for the Salt Lake Winter Olympics, organizers say they are
"adjusting" the security plan for next February's Games. Among
the options being discussed are to arm the National Guardsmen who
will augment an estimated force of 3,000 federal and 1,750 state
law-enforcement officers, and to have Air Force jets patrol the
skies over Utah. It's a response to what experts consider an
ideological shift in the threat to the Games. "In the aftermath
of Munich we saw vulnerability as relating to your national
identity," says Rathburn, who headed the L.A.P.D.'s security
effort for the 1984 Games, "but now we have to look beyond
national identity. Now, everyone is a target."
COLOR PHOTO: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP HIGH ALERT A military presence may be more common at sports venues.
"Historically, sporting events haven't been considered targets.
Now they have to be seen that way."