HOUSTON — Authorities from local, state, and federal agencies said Tuesday that football fans coming to the city can expect high security — both seen and unseen — this week and on Super Bowl Sunday, but there are no known threats to the high-profile event that will attract tens of thousands of people to the area to watch the game.
“All eyes, around the world, will be on this event. And so we need to make sure that we are prepared,” said Chip Fulgham, deputy undersecretary for the Department of Homeland Security, during a press conference. “And I’ve got to tell you, this morning, walking around ... we are prepared.”
Officials said there will be an increase in uniformed officers, police K9 units, and low-flying helicopters downtown this week. But there will also be behind-the-scenes security measures in play to help protect the public.
Additionally, Fulgham said officials will rely on the eyes and ears of sports fans, who he encouraged to report any and all suspicious activity.
“If you see something, say something,” he said. “And act by immediately reporting to local authorities. Public safety is all of our responsibility, collectively.”
The Department of Homeland Security is working closely with the NFL, Houston Police, Texas State Police, and the FBI to ensure safety throughout the week of events, which includes a series concerts and other interactive activities like the NFL Experience.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said beyond security measures, police have been targeting issues like human trafficking and prostitution, which he said is always a challenge when a large event such as the Super Bowl comes to a city.
There have already been 38 arrests related to prostitution as of Tuesday. Acevedo stressed that the most important aspect of the department’s operation to curb prostitution has been focused on helping women who are victims of trafficking.
“That is not a victimless crime, and we will take it very seriously,” he said.
Officials also touched on issues that could arise from President Donald Trump’s recent executive order limiting travel into the US for people from certain countries in the Middle East. Recent protests have erupted around the country because of the order, and attracted thousands of participants.
“We’re not concerned with protests,” Acevedo said. “We have a really long history of having responsible activists in our community that have a long-standing working relationship with the Houston Police department.”
He warned anyone not from Houston who wants to “come in from the outside and cause problems” that they will be greatly outnumbered by activists who care about their message, and what they want to convey.
“They will be the first ones to stand up to anybody,” he said. “But we’re ready.”
As for game day, NFL officials said fans should “come prepared,” and expect to go through metal detectors and a “pat down search” when they arrive.
Consistent with most gaming operations, bags that are clear plastic or vinyl and do not exceed 12-by-6-by-12 inches in size, will be permitted into the stadium, as will one-gallon clear plastic freezer bags containing items. Exceptions will be made for necessary medical items, officials said.
Prohibited items include purses, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, luggage, computer bags, and large seat cushions with compartments or covers. There’s no capacity to store any of the items not allowed inside the venue, so fans are advised to either leave them in the car, or not bring them at all.
“While the level of security here is high, there should only be moderate inconvenience,” said Cathy Lanier, senior vice president of security for the NFL. “We strongly do believe our fans will be safe, and we have no concerns after they enter, except rooting for their favorite team.”Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.