Security officials: No ‘specific credible threat’ to the Super Bowl

Federal agents, police and security personnel say they’re ready for the Super Bowl and whatever it will bring. Security officials: No ‘specific credible threat’ to the Super Bowl

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said fans should not be concerned.

“As of today there is no specific credible threat. We’ll continue to monitor,” Nielsen said. “There are no guarantees in life, but we can guarantee folks that come though will have a great day. A good time. It’ll be a good game.”

“We’ve planned, we’ve trained. It’s game time for us, and we are ready to do what we need to do and take care of anything that comes our way,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge in Minneapolis, Richard Thornton. “We are all eagerly anticipating this Sunday, and our chance to do our part to make this a safe, secure and enjoyable event for everybody.”

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Nielsen and Thornton were among a dozen security officials at a press availability at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis Wednesday afternoon. They outlined some of the measures authorities are taking measures from high definition security cameras at many intersections to watch for a possible repeat of the theft of Tom Brady’s game jersey as happened in Houston last year.

Law enforcement officers stand on stage during a security news conference.
Law enforcement officers stand on stage during a security news conference in advance of the Super Bowl 52 football game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. Matt Slocum | AP

There are also vehicle screenings, perimeter guards, explosive detection units, special response teams, mobile command centers, links to the federal intelligence community, sex trafficking teams and anti-counterfeiting efforts.

Minneapolis police chief Medaria Arradondo noted the security appears “robust,” but it’s necessary to keep the game safe and welcoming. He also thanked police officers from all over Minnesota who stepped forward.

At the multi-agency coordination center — the Super Bowl security and logistics headquarters — around 80 people representing state, federal and local law enforcement work around several large screens. One shows a live view of U.S. Bank stadium from a nearby building. On the center screen is a 3-D map of downtown Minneapolis — similar to Google Maps, but with a lot more detail.

Bruce Folkens, the Minneapolis police commander who oversees the center, said staff there can see live video from two-thousand cameras inside and outside the stadium, just by clicking on that map.

“The little orange dots there are the security cameras in the stadium,” Folkens said. “So if there’s a problem inside the stadium, we can go in and pick out a camera where that feed is at and look at what’s going on.”

Besides the fixed cameras, Folkens said patrol officers also are able to feed back live video from their smartphones.

The NFL's Cathy Lanier speaks during a security news conference.
The NFL’s Cathy Lanier speaks during a security news conference with law enforcement in advance of the Super Bowl 52 football game, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. Matt Slocum | AP

Outside the stadium, the security presence is large and visible. The streets immediately surrounding the venue are closed off with concrete barriers and chain link fencing. Even more streets will shut down Friday. The restricted area covers 30 city blocks.

“The stadium does sit in the heart of the city. So pretty tightly wedged in the center of the city. And building out a secure perimeter took a little creativity,” said Cathy Lanier, the former Washington, D.C. police chief who’s now the NFL’s head of security.

For the first time at a Super Bowl, fans can go through security screening miles away from the venue, she said.

“Ticket holders now for this Super Bowl will have the option to park for free at the Mall of America, go through screening there, and take an express ride on the Blue Line train to the front door of the stadium,” Lanier said.

Those headed to the game from the east can go through security at the University of Minnesota Stadium Village stop and take a special Green Line train into downtown. For train riders not going to the game, Metro Transit is providing free shuttle buses on Sunday along the entire Blue Line, and on the the Green Line west of Stadium Village.

Even with thousands of cameras and security personnel stationed all over the stadium and its grounds, Alex Khu, with the Department of Homeland Security in the Twin Cities, is urging fans to be vigilant.

“If you see something suspicious, please contact the authorities or report it to a uniformed police officer nearby,” Khu said.

While avoiding any sort of mass casualty attack is foremost on the minds of law enforcement, Khu says police and federal agents are also on the lookout for other crimes including sex trafficking and the sale of counterfeit tickets and team merchandise.

Lanier suggested there’s another threat some fans might not have considered: a subzero cold snap that may chill Super Sunday.

She urged fans to go through the security screening offered at the Mall of America, to come early and dress warm.

“Everyone should expect to spend some time out in the elements,” Lanier said. “This is very important to make sure that people who are coming here and visiting the Super Bowl dress appropriately. Even if you’re only out for a few minutes, it’s important you dress appropriately.”

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She also said battery-operated heated clothing, like socks or vests, will be banned.

Staff from city departments such as public works are also on hand, ready to deploy plows in case of snow and tweak traffic signals.