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With eye on Sochi, New York focuses on keeping 'mass transit Super Bowl' safe

10:12 PM, Jan 29, 2014   |    comments
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NEW YORK - Super Bowl XLVIII is being billed as a "mass transit Super Bowl." Mindful of bomb attacks last month on a railway station and bus in the region of the Sochi Olympics in Russia, officials in New York on Wednesday said there will be a massive security presence on the routes to Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

"We've had meetings over the last couple of weeks. Of particular concern to us was what was going on overseas in Volgograd (the Russian city that was the scene of the attacks) related to the Sochi Olympics," Col. Rick Fuentes, superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said at a security briefing for the media.

"As you know, both of those bombings targeted mass transit. So we've relied a great deal on DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), who are our gateway to the federal intelligence community, to keep an eye and to brief us out on those events. So that I would have to say is a concern with mass transit, and we've prepared ourselves for it."

Fuentes said the expectation is about 80,000 spectators and 10,000 stadium workers will come to MetLife Stadium, where they will be electronically screened and patted down before entry. But the majority of them won't be arriving by car.

"This is a mass transit Super Bowl," said Fuentes.

He said about 1,000 parking spots are going to be available at the stadium, about 40% less than typical for events. He said about half of those will go to buses and half to cars with pre-purchased parking passes.

Fuentes estimated about 12-15,000 spectators will come by light rail and about another 15,000 by bus. To get on one of those trains or buses, Fuentes said passengers will have to show their Super Bowl tickets.

In addition to stadium security, Fuentes said, "Hundreds of other police officers on Sunday are going to be on rail platforms. They're going to be along rail lines. They're going to be at bus stations."

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William Bratton, commissioner of the New York Police Department, echoed the concern for mass transit attacks.

"We have run a number of table top exercises that take into account any type of scenario that could unfold, a lone wolf type of situation up to and including nuclear radiation issues. Certainly, we're very well prepared," said Bratton.

"Certainly, we're keeping an eye on activities around the world. But as of this time there are no threats directed against this event that we're aware of. At the same time, one of the benefits of hosting this event here in this region is ... the NYPD and its colleagues in the area have some of the most extensive counter terrorism capabilities. ... not only detection but response."

Other security issues addressed Wednesday:

Biological or nuclear radiation attacks - "That's something we worry about every day, all year," said George Venizelos, assistant director in charge of the FBI in New York. "I'm not going to tell you what we have, but we do have detection devices throughout the city, and it's something that's taken very seriously. ... We train for this. We have the ability to deal with it."

Hacking power grids - Jeh Johnson, national secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said his agency's Office of Infrastructure Protection is focused on that. "For a largely attended gathering and major event such as this, that does go into our considerations here," he said.

Avoiding a repeat of last year's Super Bowl power blackout - "This year we're going to try to go blackout free and go through the whole thing," said Jeffrey Miller, NFL vice president/chief security officer. "So we've done a lot with power redundancy (backup). In planning for this event, New Jersey authorities have done an excellent job there."

Sex trafficking - Fuentes said that typically is "floating around the edges" of major events. "It's not always a situation you can arrest your way out of," he said. "We do want to arrest the traffickers. You to uncover them ... but at the same time a lot of people become ensnared in these organizations, so it's very important to have a social mechanism in place to be able to rescue people. Of course, we're also concerned about child sex trafficking."

Cold weather - "We're telling fans, listen, it's going to be cold out there," said the NFL's Miller. "So make sure that you wear layers ... a lot of layers." Said the NYPD's Bratton: "It's going to be a cold day and that will make it a certain degree of excitement in and of itself. "But I think the warmth of the welcome that you receive in New Jersey (and) what I can guarantee here in New York over the next four or five days will offset the chill in the air."

(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)

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