NFL security chief attends 49ers game
Sunday, August 28, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — NFL security chief Jeff Miller is confident Candlestick Park will be a safe, secure venue for fans this season.
Miller spent Saturday afternoon meeting with police officers, 49ers security officials and fans a week after two men were shot in a parking lot outside the stadium following San Francisco’s 17-3 win over the Bay Area rival Oakland Raiders. There were also numerous fights inside the stadium, including one man getting beaten unconscious in a bathroom.
Miller called the violence “unsettling,” and something the NFL is taking seriously and plans to “change.”
“Preseason games across the league generally don’t have the same fan base that attends the games throughout the season,” Miller said. “I really think a lot of the people who were here last weekend were not the true 49ers fans, they weren’t the true Raiders fans. They were people who chose that evening event as their own crime scene, this location as their crime scene. They came here with the intent of maybe drinking a lot and getting involved in things they shouldn’t have.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza said drunken outbursts and violent incidents were “way below” average at Saturday’s 49ers game against the Houston Texans at Candlestick, which ended in a 30-7 Houston victory.
At the end of the night, there was one arrest, 12 people ejected from the game, and two people cited for public intoxication.
Esparza credited visible police presence on foot, bike and motorcycles in the stands and parking lots, and DUI checkpoints at the park’s exits.
Fans said this week’s matchup was a whole different ballgame, so to speak.
Alex Enriquez, 24, of Santa Rosa chalked up some of the violence at last week’s game to the charged atmosphere that the rivalry between the team and the cross-town Oakland Raiders generates.
“Raiders-Niners games are for adults,” Enriquez said as he barbecued in a Candlestick Park parking lot with his two kids before the game against the Houston Texans. “People come for the controversy.”
Other tailgaters shared Enriquez’s sentiment. Some said they welcomed the team’s additional security measures following Saturday’s violence.
The 49ers announced that they were banning tailgating once the game starts. They also said they would have additional police at games and postgame DUI checkpoints. A large sign above the first tier of seats that was put up after last week’s violence encouraged fans to text a five-digit number to “report unruly behavior.”
The police and security presence during Saturday’s game appeared to be greater than usual. Police officers on foot patrolled throughout the parking lots outside the park and also inside the stadium, while other officers monitored the scene on motorcycles and in golf carts.
Officers asked tailgaters to go into the stadium after kickoff in accordance with the new rules.
“That’s good of the city to get more police in here to make sure it is organized, and there’s not a whole lot of crime,” said 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald. “You have little kids and family here. They just want to come and enjoy the game. They don’t want to see anybody get in any fights or get shot.”
Miller praised police for engaging fans and making their presence felt early in the day and said the 49ers security measures would improve fan safety.
“Granted there’s not as many people here and it’s not exactly the same demographic as last week but I think the plan that the (49ers) demonstrated and what they’re doing and the commitment they’ve shown to it is exemplary and I think it will carry forward throughout the entire season and create a safe environment for the fans here at Candlestick Park.”
Cecilia Apostol, who attended last week’s game, said she was concerned about her safety and called the 49ers afterward to inquire about security.
“Once in a while you see fights, but last week was worse,” Apostol said. She was with her daughter, son-in law and 12- and 5-year-old grandchildren tailgating in the parking lot.
Apostol bought a prepaid parking pass for Saturday’s game to be closer to the stadium, where she said she thought she would be safer.
Team spokesman Steve Weakland would not say how many additional officers and security officials would be present on Saturday.
Police planned an increase of staffing by 10 percent, with additional plainclothes and uniformed officers, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
“We’re not expecting anything as bad as last week, but because of what happened we want to reassure folks that we’ll have plenty of officers on hand,” he said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello interacted with fans via Twitter on Saturday regarding fan behavior and how it’s handled.
“Take responsibility for your own conduct,” he tweeted.
At last week’s game, more than 70 fans were ejected from the stadium, 12 people were arrested and dozens of medical calls were made. Officials said the numbers were significantly higher than those for a typical home game at Candlestick Park.
Police have not made any arrests in the shootings and beating at last week’s game. All three victims were listed in fair condition earlier this week.
AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in San Francisco and AP reporter Shaya Tayefe Mohajer in Los Angeles contributed to this report.