01/29/2008

Over 800 officers ready to protect Super Bowl

The Associated Press

PHOENIX — The police agencies responsible for patrolling the Super Bowl say they’re not aware of any threat so far to the biggest single-day sporting event in the country, but they’ve organized a massive build up of security just in case.

FBI Special Agent John Lewis said Monday that authorities have heard only “what I would call fairly routine, very small incoming complaints about somebody wanting to do this or that.

“That’s very typical in these types of cases,” he said.

Nevertheless, with millions of people focused on the National Football League championship game in Phoenix’s suburb of Glendale, federal security officials have again designated the game a “level one” special event, just below U.S. President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address.

This year’s Super Bowl festivities also will be complicated by another major sporting event, the FBR Open golf tournament, going on simultaneously in nearby Scottsdale. Security agencies have been meeting for 15 months to ensure that they keep an organized watch over the entire metro area this week.

Glendale Police Lt. Matt Apodaca said more than 800 officers from numerous city agencies will patrol a 5-square-kilometer (2-square-mile) security zone around the University of Phoenix Stadium. Apodaca said officers on horseback, on foot and in motorized carts will mingle with fans who are attending the game and the NFL Experience, a weeklong festival nearby.

The U.S. government’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will bring packs of dogs that are trained to sniff out compounds that are common among most explosives.

“We bring in our dogs because they are, quite frankly, the best in the federal government,” ATF Special Agent Tom Mangan said.

Police also have installed security cameras throughout the stadium area. Overhead, U.S. Customs and Border Protection aircraft will circle the sky and give authorities a birds-eye view of what’s going on.

U.S. Customs will intercept any threat from the air with Blackhawk helicopters and modified business jets based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the south in Tucson, said Ken Huffer, the Secret Service special agent in charge in Phoenix.

Huffer said federal authorities will enforce a 50-kilometer (30-mile) no-fly perimeter around the stadium below 6,700 meters (22,000 feet) on game day.

The no-fly zone overlaps with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, but Huffer said commercial pilots have been notified and should be able to work around the new security limits.

“I can assure you that there will be no interference with scheduled commercial aircraft,” Huffer said.

Security officials say they hope fans won’t notice most of their efforts. But people attending the Super Bowl likely will have to deal with more restrictions than they’re used to during the regular NFL season.

Super Bowl officials said they will prohibit fans from entering the stadium with anything larger than a small purse or bag. They also won’t allow any binocular and camera cases.

Orose said authorities started working on security plans for the Super Bowl in November 2006.

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