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August 17, 2004

Update On Athletics Venue Security

FROM POST 9-11 VIGILANCE come a series of executed and proposed security measures for stadiums and arenas.

Many college venues have already implemented heightened police presence, more- comprehensive parcel searches, advanced surveillance techniques, sophisticated personnel training and upgraded access and communications technology.

However, by most accounts, there are many upgrades that still need to be executed.

“We’re all surprised that an athletic venue has not been a target yet,” says Neil Livingstone, CEO of GlobalOptions, a Washington, DC-based security firm. “We’re surprised we haven’t seen anything like in Israel, where somebody straps on a bomb belt and walks into the stands and detonates it. At most stadiums, you don’t have to walk through a magnetometer. I can show you a half-dozen ways to beat security at a Redskins game, and this is the nation’s capital.”

Livingstone, goes further, “The dominant view at universities and elsewhere is, ‘I’m scared to death that something bad will happen, but I hope it doesn’t happen on my watch because I don’t want to take money out of my athletic budget to pay for it.’ We’re an invitation for disaster right now.”

Wow. Does that get your attention maybe?

The first facility-oriented issue is access control. Locks on doors to prevent unauthorized entry are a yawningly basic first step. Low tech, but highly effective.

Vandals are the biggest threat to schools. Their favorite target is the electrical room, which is the most important room from a security standpoint in a school. If vandals were to gain access to this one room, they can do big damage.

Technology has helped to restrict access to specific areas--such as the electrical room, press box and gym—with vandalism deterrents such as security cameras, motion detectors, magnetic-striped cards and keypads.

Mechanical-armed turnstiles have become more technologically advanced as well. Many models are now equipped with optical software that automatically reads barcodes on tickets or membership cards. Newer turnstile models have done away with mechanical arms in favor of laser sensors, and emit audible and visual alarms when an unauthorized person attempts to pass through.

GlobalOptions’ Livingstone articulates a straightforward and pragmatic philosophy to the surveillance of fans, “I know a lot of people don’t like it, think it’s un-American, but I am a great believer in profiling. Certainly not racial profiling, which doesn’t work, but the kind of profiling that targets someone who’s behaving in an odd kind of way.”

There are many civil liberties issues yet to be resolved before meaningful security advances can be implemented at college athletics venues. Livingstone describes a concern of many facility operators, “We’re going to have to inflict some level of inconvenience on people getting in and out of stadiums. Stadium owners don’t want to do that because they think it’ll make people paranoid and keep them home. But one major attack carried out in an NFL stadium or NBA arena, and the next week there won’t be anybody at the games.”


Civil liberties. Or security. Mutually exclusive?

(this 496 word excerpt was condensed from a 2949 word article in the August 2004 issue of Athletic Business)