Trouble on tap, they're ready Security: Beer goes down the same as in Colts days, but police at the Ravens' stadium will have technology on their side for this round.

Stadium Watch

August 04, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

Ask Baltimore police to compare security at the new Ravens stadium to its baseball neighbor at Camden Yards and their response is resoundingly unanimous: Football fans drink more beer.

That translates into more rowdy behavior and potential trouble for those whose job it is to keep the peace at the city's newest sporting attraction. But officers say they are up to the challenge.

"We're starting with a lot of resources," said Maj. John J. McEntee Jr., who heads the Police Department's tactical unit and oversees the stadium detail.

City police are not exactly inexperienced when it comes to football. The Ravens played at Memorial Stadium, and before that there was Baltimore's entry in the Canadian Football League. And some officers even remember working Colts games.

But security has come a long way since the Colts left in 1984. The Ravens have built an expansive and elaborate multi-office security complex on the ground level of the stadium, complete with reception area.

There's a room lined with computer screens where security officers can monitor the many surveillance cameras trained on vendors, sidelines, bank machines and potential trouble spots in the stands. And, of course, there are the cells.

Four jail cells -- each holding one person -- are in a separate room. Each has linoleum floors, concrete walls, a wooden bench and a drain in the floor. Just in case that drinking thing gets out of control.

"Football fans tailgate," McEntee said. "People will have had three beers before they even come into the facility."

He also said that unlike baseball, football has fewer events, and fans tend to get revved up for each one.

"Football is probably more intense than baseball," said Chuck Cusick, the Ravens' facilities manager. "They tend to become a little boisterous. There is a lot of back and forth between hometown and visiting fans."

Cusick, without getting into details, said officials will "constantly monitor the area where visiting teams' fans are sitting. The home fans can be a little obnoxious toward the visitors."

McEntee said that unruly behavior isn't expected to be like the situation in Philadelphia, where police make so many arrests at Veterans Stadium that a judge comes to dispense justice. But he said if police are called to restore order in Baltimore, there won't be much leniency.

"If we're called in, it's pretty much an arrest or an ejection situation," he said. "We certainly arrest more people and eject more people at football games than we do at baseball games."

Police and Ravens officials refuse to say how many officers or other security teams will work each game. But they say there will be a strong contingent inside and outside the stadium, with most being paid overtime by the football team.

The closest McEntee will come to reciting numbers is to say a Ravens game will need 30 percent more officers than an Orioles game. That is partly because the NFL stadium dwarfs its neighbor in size, with 20,000 more seats.

Cusick said the state-of-the-art computer system is the "heartbeat" of security. The monitors will not only show hot spots, but also will display traffic flow on streets around the stadium, so state highway workers can quickly address problems and get cars moving on the highways leading to and from the park.

The new Jack Kent Cooke Stadium for the Washington Redskins has a similar computer, but it wasn't installed until after the first game, in which traffic ground to a halt and caused major problems. The police substation at the Ravens' stadium is away from the public, meaning people can find it if needed, but it is designed to avoid casual walk-in traffic, McEntee said.

Also, the jail cells are in a separate room from the lobby, to avoid a common situation at Oriole Park, in which anyone who walks in the front door may be confronted by a locked-up suspect only a few feet away.

The chances of having competing events at the Ravens stadium and at Oriole Park are slim and would only occur if the Orioles made the playoffs and had a home game scheduled on a Sunday that the Ravens also were in town.

But McEntee said police could handle simultaneous events. The department will get a small test Saturday, during the preseason Ravens game that will be the first at the new stadium. A concert is being held at the same time at the downtown Arena.

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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