No matter where you are in Seattle on Sunday — whether you’re watching the NFC Championship Game between the Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers or not — expect to see a lot more local, state and federal law enforcement out on the streets.
All three will be beefing up their presence in preparation for the worst, while hoping for the best: no violence or vandalism.
Inside and outside CenturyLink Field, security operations that have been in action throughout the season will be amplified with increased staffing, which will include a Joint Terrorism Task Force with officers from Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington State Patrol and Seattle Police Department. Undercover police in plainclothes and team jerseys will also be keeping a lookout for suspicious bags and out-of-control fan behavior.
Implementing a combination of security measures at National Football League stadiums across the country recently has brought arrests down 20 percent and ejections down 13 percent nationwide, said the NFL’s Chief of Security Jeffrey Miller. CenturyLink Field would not release its own statistics.
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Miller thinks the improvements have come, in part, because of undercover operations that about a third of NFL stadiums use and security systems that give fans the ability to report suspicious behavior by text message.
Inside CenturyLink, fans can text HAWK12 (429512) or call 888-MYHAWKS (888-694-2957). People outside the stadium should call 911.
Miller said you can also blame him for the stringent rules on what bags people can bring into the stadium: clear bags no larger than 12 inches wide, 12 inches long and 6 inches deep or a one-gallon clear-plastic freezer bag. A small clutch bag approximately the size of a hand can also be brought in.
“In the beginning, some people were really critical, but the complaints went away really quick,” said Miller. “We’re getting people in faster because, in the past, you had to allow a lot more time to search all those bags properly.”
Seattle Police Department spokesman Mark Jamieson said that although he couldn’t provide exact numbers because of security reasons, there will be visible increases in police around neighborhoods expected to have the most viewing parties and the most drinking: Pioneer Square, Belltown, Capitol Hill and the University District.
Heightened surveillance will be a daylong operation that begins with safely getting football fans to the stadium or game-watching parties, and ends with keeping drunken drivers off the road. Washington State Patrol and the Bellevue Police Department will also have more DUI-emphasis patrols out.
Jamieson said that in addition to in neighborhoods with lots of bars there will be increased police presence elsewhere because if something were to happen in Greenwood, say, they don’t want to yank police officers from CenturyLink or Belltown to respond to it.
The Seattle Police Department has braced itself before when the Seahawks hosted and won the NFC Championships in 2006 and when the Mariners won some pivotal games in 1995.
Jamieson said he remembers when he was called in to respond to crowds outside of one of the 1995 Mariners games because “people were so happy they lost their minds.” He said police made sure they cleared euphoria out of the streets before it transitioned into any rioting.
“If something similar to that were to happen, we’ll be able to address it quickly, and that’s important because the longer it goes unaddressed, the more likely it is someone will get hurt,” Jamieson said. “We recognize we might be seeing some spontaneous celebrations because the Hawks are going to win, of course.”
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @AlexaVaughn.