Security Pat Downs at Football Games

A fan's view of the extra "security" at football games.

Posted on September 30, 2005 at 4:09 PM • 21 Comments

Comments

Joe BuckSeptember 30, 2005 4:50 PM

They're really searching the public for food and drinks, so they have to buy the overpriced stadium food (four dollars for a bottle of water, that kind of thing) and not bring any of their own.

jammitSeptember 30, 2005 9:51 PM

Give 'em an inch (2.54000000000000003552713678800500929355621337890625cm) and they'll take a mile (1.60934400000000010777512216009199619293212890625km)
That's just my $0.02 (0.01664 Euro)

JANSeptember 30, 2005 10:52 PM

@jammit:

"Give 'em an inch (2.54000000000000003552713678800500929355621337890625cm)..."

I know it's just part of your humor, but your number is wrong. An inch is *defined* to be *exactly* 25.4 mm.

LlywelynOctober 1, 2005 2:05 AM

This reminds me of two random stories:

I remember going to a hockey game in Denver and they were patting down everyone who entered the building. I had forgotten that I had my pocketknife on me and decided that I just didn't want to deal with the hassle of walking back to the car, so I put it in the lens pocket of my jacket, next to a pair of sunglasses. they felt that pocket, looked in it and saw the glasses, and just waved me through.

Another case I was going to a Saints game and they were checking bags. The woman in front of me had a stylists comb in her bag--one of the plastic ones that comes to a point--and the security personnel (I use that term loosely) wouldn't let her take it inside, causing a bit of a ruckus. They weren't frisking people. I had a 3" spyderco on my belt (I carry a small spyderco pocketknife everywhere) and walked through without even getting a second glance.

HarryOctober 1, 2005 4:16 AM

I attended the IRB Rugby Sevens held at the Home Depot Stadium, Carson, CA a couple of years ago and couldn't take in my flag that was a flimsy wooden stick, yet they sold nachos that could kill at 6 paces. Back in my home town of Wellington, NZ you can take in giant banners on poles but you can't take in glass containers (especially with alcohol). It's nothing to do with security, its to protect the monopoly of the sales inside the stadium. I wonder if frisking at NFL has something similar....

Dr Stephen DannOctober 1, 2005 5:31 AM

Back here in Brisbane, you get two types of match day security.

1. Soccer level security which is metal detectors, pat downs, bag searches and, if they can swing the gear, riot cops with guns. I had first hand experience of this back in 1996. Basically, the ethnic gang rivalry would often be sorted out at a soccer match, since between brawling, there was something to watch. Checks were based around projectiles, weapons and the definition of "weapon" included 1.5 litre or large bottles of water, and projectile included 600ml bottles or smaller.

Which meant any drink was deemed militarised.

2. Coca-cola Shakedown which is where food and drinks are confiscated from hands, from bags and bags are subjected to search. Security is not remotely concerned about weapons, concealed objects or guys dressed in all black carrying laptops (Never once had to try explaining to a security guard on a Friday night why I had a laptop, digital camera, and sometimes even a video camera in my backpack). However, try crossing that line with a 600ml of Diet Coke, and they'll stop you.

Admittedly, I now make it policy to stuff two 600ml Pepsi bottles into the pockets of my trenchcoat jacket so I can smuggle a decent drink into the venue. They search bags but totally ignore large coats slung over your arm.

Like Harry said, it's economic exclusivity, not security

another_bruceOctober 1, 2005 11:33 AM

as a wee lad of about ten years, i was taken to a los angeles dodgers game by my dad for my birthday. security palpated the small backpack from the outside to assure there were no cans of soft drinks in there. the birthday cake that was in there was turned to mush, the cake no longer distinguishable from the frosting. in the forty years since, i have never returned to dodger stadium. not once.

B-ConOctober 1, 2005 3:42 PM

What on earth are they hoping to find by patting down the sides of people's legs? Since everyone already knew that the pat-downs would be coming, and they would clearly have the time, while in line, to observe exactily how the pat-downs were being done, any moderately intellegent vegetable could simply shift their cargo to a non-pat-down location.

And what where they hoping to find that the metal detectors couldn't? Free snacks?

This is perhaps the stupidest sports-related security measure I've ever heard of.

jammitOctober 1, 2005 6:09 PM

@JAN
I thought 1in was equal to 2.54cm, but I used a website calculator to find out. Not an excuse, but it was late and I was trying to attempt humor by comparing the idiocy of my super-huge retarded conversion to the super-huge retarded search they're doing at the stadium. Sure, the metal detector is a good idea because it catches the real bad stuff. Trying to get /every/ little thing is silly. A knife or gun (or other pointy thing) is definitely a bad thing, but to use this as a reason to catch evil do'ers taking a soft drink in is just wrong.

SteveOctober 3, 2005 4:40 AM

@jammit:

It looks like a floating point inaccuracy on the part of the online calculator. It will be working with binary rather than decimal fractions, so my guess is that the value it gave you is the base-10 representation of the 64-bit floating point value closest to 2.54.

blueMagooOctober 3, 2005 8:11 AM

I had a similar experience while bring my three sons to a NY Mets game at Shea stadium about a month ago. We all had to wait outside the stadium for the gates to open and the delay seemed to be caused by waiting for their crack security team to get setup. When they finally do and we begin moving into the stadium, one of the guards takes a cursory look at the contents of my fanny pack and waves me along. When I get to another member of their crack security staff he tells me to open the same fanny pack. When I tell him it was already checked down the line, he tells me to take off my Mets cap so he can check that I'm not smuggling explosives under it or whatever.

My boys got a big kick of all the security goings on as they are well aware of my impatience with delays such as lines, traffic jams, etc..

Don't the owners of these teams understand that it should be their jobs to insure that the experience of going to a game be as pleasant and hassle free as possible, esp. at the prices they charge? At some point people are going to start saying enough is enough with all these nonsensical security hassles and spend their entertainment dollars elsewhere.

RouninOctober 3, 2005 11:26 AM

In my time working as an in-house security agent at a city hospital, several things became very clear to me.

The three following problems are major factors in how I view corporate physical security in much of America.

Your mileage may vary.

1) Security managers and other executives that oversee policy are completely clueless to what occurs in the trenches. (e.g. "Don't scare away the customers.") They will knowingly risk the safety of their patients, visitors, and employees for convienence. This is especially bad in a highly-volatile environment such as hospital emergency room. Part of this has to do with pandering to the convienence of VIP employees (e.g. doctors, executive officers, etc...) where security was compromised. God forbid a doctor be asked to wear an ID badge (state law mind you!).

2) Contract security agencies will generally hire anyone that has a pulse. The one contract security agency that we used to monitor the parking garages and several ingress/egress points would hire individuals that lacked communication (little English), physical ability (80-year old's), or general critical thinking skills (e.g. smoking near industrial O2 tanks). Some had prior felony convictions, emotional and/or psychological conditions, and little to no college education.

3) Salary for in-house security was atrocious. Nine dollars was the starting wage and in the absence of a supervisor, the lead agent (based on seniority, but those less-competent or unfamiliar would be transferred to a separate facility) would be given an extra $1/hr for charge-differential.

At the very least, a security agent with 6 months experience could be in charge of all hospital security. (Including bomb threats, fires, infant abductions, ER response, and other types of crises not to mention day-to-day operations.)

Why should I work 10x harder with 10x more responsibility for a single extra dollar an hour?

radiantmatrixOctober 3, 2005 1:33 PM

This isn't about security any more than the "armed" guards at airports after the WTC attacks. You know the ones -- the guys who had guns with no ammo in them.

This is about exactly the same thing: making Joe Average feel safer, covering your arse, and creating marketing opportunities. As long as the majority of people buying tickets feel safe, the measure has "worked". As long as they can say "we took every reasonable precaution", they won't lose lawsuits. And, as a bonus, they can advertise how safe they are, and how 'concerned with the safety of the fans'.

++DonOctober 3, 2005 4:43 PM

OT: Actually, there is something called the "survey inch", that is defined as exactly 1/39.37 of a meter, or appx. 2.540005 cm. As its name implies, it is used only for surveying in the US. It came about because the "metrified" definition of the standard inch, exactly 2.54 cm, wasn't quite right for all the surveying that had already been done in the US. The difference between a standard inch and a survey inch amounts to appx. 3 mm per mile. That doesn't sound like much, but it's about a foot per 100 miles. That's a lot when you're talking about people's property lines.

Regarding the pat-downs, it's all about the external food and drink. Remember, follow the money.

MichaelOctober 3, 2005 8:59 PM

In general I agree that most venues are trying to keep food out so they can charge insane amounts... However I was at an all day festival type concert years back and after the beer had been flowing for several hours the people in the lawn thought it would be funny to throw full capped water bottles into the seats. The next year at the same concert water was opened when it was sold and with out caps.

When I take my food in to venues like that I tell them I am on a medical diet and can only eat certain foods. I've never had anyone stop me or take my food.

DarkFireOctober 5, 2005 12:42 PM

Without referring to the problems of forcing people to eat food bought at the venue, there is a point to this:

Unfortunately, many football fans here in the UK are violent scum.

RichardOctober 7, 2005 1:52 AM

I am so glad my kids were past their teen years by the time 9/11 came around. I'm not sure I would have been able to come to the point of view you have, even many months/years after the fact.

Canada is (according to my favourite author, the late Robert Heinlein) blood brothers with the US. The US sneezes and we catch cold; or so it seems.

We hate to love you, but we do - and we hurt when you do. We also suffer when you do, and typically of the same thing.

I, unlike many (most) actually understand statistics and have also been in marketing for years. Doing almost anything to 100% of a population (statistically speaking) is just plain stupid - and not exercising what is euphemistically called "profiling" is equally stupid - but I'd call it (profiling) "using common sense" with a bit of "gut feeling" thrown in.

In this day of "political correctness" and "cover your ass", there is almost no way to excuse not checking everyone (when talking) to the few you might check who don't pan out - and they will use this lack of excuse to sue in our (yes, Canada has the same problem, just not quite as bad yet but we're catching up) litigious environment - for embarrassment, or any excuse to get money. Of course the ones who are real miscreants should not have any recourse.

In fact, anyone caught up in the net who is found innocent should be more than thankful that society as a whole has been left otherwise untouched at their expense - but of course that doesn't wash when there is profit at the other end.

There are few "reasonable" alternatives to this. Only 100% "pat down" or whatever other humiliating experience the powers that be will find acceptable to cover their asses and not incur the wrath of the few chosen at random or because of a guard's "feeling".

The only way out is government law and regulation that protects and regulates the guarding - but I'm damned if I know how to word it.

any thoughts?

Will it take education? Law, regulation, ???

Delores QuadeOctober 8, 2005 1:10 PM

@ Richard

"The only way out is government law and regulation that protects and regulates the guarding - but I'm damned if I know how to word it.

any thoughts?

Will it take education? Law, regulation, ???"

Do away with Money.

CrikeySeptember 7, 2006 12:09 AM

I've been working "security" at football for several years. I've now graduated from bagsearching (Thank God) to a dirt easy post on the gate/ alternating with a bar when some idiot goofs up on underage.
Why is there such surprise that the confiscation of soft drinks etc is firstly to protect the concessionaires inside, secondly to eliminate potential missiles. This is not rocket science. As for flick knifes, you may think you are smart getting one in through the gate, but if you flash it inside, you will hit the ground and the turf outside faster than lightning.
But I read these netsites to get up to speed on smart alecs boasting about how they forged ID cards, duplicated or fooled around with wristbands, and boasted about getting weapons inside undetected. So keep posting

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..