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

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

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

"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 join news conference with local and federal officials, "but have no doubt we are there. Protecting our city is a partnership."

More than 40 agencies, along with some 4,000 private security personnel, are coordinating to ensure security, and officials from various agencies repeated the phrase that there’s “no known credible threat” looming as the game nears.

Content Continues Below

"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 Under Secretary for Management. "We're prepared. As Vince Lombardi said, if we work together we will win and that's what we're doing."

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

“Security is always our top priority. We look to balance that will 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. Already there have been some Super Bowl-related arrests: some petty theft cases, pickpocket, a public intoxication and a guy 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,o00 items with a retail value of $500,000,” he added. “We’re not going to let people steal the intellectual properties of folks who actually own those rights.”

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

The police department, Harris County Sherriff’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 this Sunday, it’s a good bet demonstrators may 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 may seek to infiltrate community protests that they will be outnumbered – by activists themselves, 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, closed in reminding fans to be vigilant and reporting 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.”