Heightened Awareness At The Swamp, Following Boston Marathon Bombing
GAINESVILLE - All for the "safe" Gators, stand up and holler! The first University of Florida football game of the season is a little over three weeks away. While the University Athletic Association has been preparing for the big day, one item on the checklist has assumed a much greater urgency in recent months-- Security. Football fans can expect to see some changes this season.
Even the NFL is tightening their security and adding more restrictions at their stadiums this season. Their new policy prohibits bags larger than a gallon Ziploc and the bags must also be clear. While the UAA won't go to that extent, they are taking extra security measures, both inside and outside the stadium.
About 88,000 people fill up UF's Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during each game. Not counting the extra 10-15,000 fans around campus. Lieutenant William Gainey with the University of Florida Police Department, is in charge of home football games. And in light of the Boston tragedy, this season he says, additional security measures will be taken.
Lieutenant William Gainey Deputy Chief for home football games said, "We are very well aware of the techniques that were used in the Boston City Marathon bombings. We will certainly be proactive in searching the exterior of the stadium prior to, during the game, essentially at all times when certain large groups of people gather."
Lt. Gainey tells me that some people turned down at the gate for carrying a prohibited item like this umbrella, won't go back to their car to put it away but instead will hide it by stashing it behind a bush. Putting more stress on law enforcement.
Lt. Gainey said, "Law enforcement has to investigate any suspicious package that we see tucked away under a bush or in a hedge so we encourage all gator fans to take those items back to their vehicles. Now we understand it can be a little inconvenient however it's going to cause law enforcement a lot of extra work later on during the game if we discover those items... And usually we do."
While the security plan is confidential it may include extra backpack checks among other things. Something UF student Steven Gonzalez says should be done if executed appropriately.
"There can't be gigantic lines to get into the stadium... It can't take forever. It's going to take a large team to figure out how this is going to happen; what's okay, what's not okay when they're patting people down and checking bags. So I think it's a good idea, as long as it's done right.
I spoke to Chip Howard with UF's Athletic Association who says the Boston bombing showed the need for more perimeter security during large sporting events, like gator football games. UFPD asks that fans pay more attention to their surroundings and to report any suspicious activity to them at: 352-392-1111.
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