Security throws flag on rowdy behavior Cameras aid surveillance

fans with two ejections will lose season tickets

August 30, 1998|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

When a Gainesville, Va., man jumped onto the field during the Ravens' preseason opener, he became the first person arrested and the first guest in the basement cellblock at the $223 million stadium.

For rowdy fans who may try to test the limits of law enforcement at Ravens stadium, the swift justice serves as a lesson on just how far to push having a good time in the future.

Two arrests were made that night -- both fans were charged with running onto the field. Eleven people were ejected, most for engaging in fisticuffs or some other type of disorderly behavior.

The consequences for misbehaving are severe. Two ejections and you lose your season tickets. Once police become involved in a security issue, "it's an arrestable situation," said Maj. John J. McEntee Jr., who heads the tactical unit that oversees security at the stadium and runs a state-of-the-art police command center on the basement level.

Police said they were pleased with the preseason. The fans were subdued and not as drunk as police had expected. Officers patrolling the stadium called the atmosphere a family picnic when compared with the fights and beer tossings common at Colts games on 33rd Street.

"We were encouraged by the way things went," McEntee said. "We just didn't know what to expect. We were prepared for more because it was a night game and people had a chance to drink more."

Of course, many officers cautioned, it could be much rowdier next Sunday for the first regular-season game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, expected to draw a large contingent of visiting fans.

McEntee said the stadium may expand its surveillance system by adding two cameras. Officers in the command center already can zoom in on every seating section in the stadium, allowing them to direct officers and quickly note trouble spots from a central location.

The cameras were able to pick up the arrests of both persons charged with running onto the field, and police describe them as invaluable tools in terms of prosecuting offenders and keeping watch on nearly 69,000 ticket-holders.

Stadium officials said they plan to take a no-nonsense stance on fans who get out of control to maintain a family-style atmosphere.

Detective Dave Peckoo, who made the stadium's first arrest, said he didn't want to bust Timothy Laughlin. But the Ravens have rules, and jumping onto the field during a game is an automatic arrest.

Laughlin, 28, was charged with one count of trespassing, a misdemeanor. If convicted at his District Court trial next month, he could be sentenced to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Laughlin declined to comment.

"I told him that if it was up to me, he would just be escorted out," Peckoo said. "He said he was just trying to take a shortcut" from one section to another.

"I wasn't going to lock him up. But for people running on the field, it's automatic. He seemed like a nice guy. I've never arrested anybody for trespassing. It was a first for him and a first for me."

Stadium review

The Ravens have played two preseason games at home, letting fans get an early look at what the new stadium is all about. Now, with the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week away, this section critiques various aspects -- from getting there, to tailgating, to watching the game. Ratings used are thumbs up, thumbs down and a combination of up and down.

SECURITY -- UP

Pub Date: 8/30/98

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