Sep 11, 2013
Ohio University football fans at last weekend's home game may have noticed increased security at Peden Stadium and it's something they can expect to see more of at future events on the Athens Campus.
Ohio University Police Chief Andrew Powers says his department is taking a proactive approach to event security to ensure the public remains as safe as possible during large gatherings, such as home football games.
"This is not in response to any specific threat or to say that we are in a vulnerable position," explained Powers. "When you have 25,000 people in one place, it is important to be proactive and be consistent with best practices in security measures."
These best practices include bag checks at stadium gates, more police officers at the stadium and the presence of explosive detection K-9s. The security measures will take place before the opening of an event and during the event. Often, the work begins well in advance of a special event. Powers says his department works with Ohio Homeland Security's Intelligence Center to perform threat analyses by scouring the Internet and monitoring chatter about upcoming events. OUPD will approach each special event on a case by case basis, such as by possibly clearing the parking lot located underneath the Convocation Center during major events in the building, such as basketball games.
Recent instances of violence, such as the Boston Marathon bombing, have heightened concern about public safety. During the Bobcats game against Northern Texas on Sept. 7, bomb sniffing dogs from the Muskingum County Sheriff's Office and the State Fire Marshal's office were on hand.
The increased presence is not intended to create alarm, said Powers. "If we believe there is a specific threat, we will communicate that to the community," he said.
Powers encourages the public to take an active role in helping keep events safe and secure, recalling Homeland Security's tagline "see something, say something." He says calling suspicious activity to the attention of officers at the stadium is particularly helpful.
One of the advantages of having the dogs at the stadium is quick response time should a package or bag need investigation. The K-9 units are not new, in fact, the dogs attended three of six home games last year, said Powers.
The explosive detection K-9s Bobcat fans currently see at games and special events are provided through coordination with the Columbus Division of Fire.
Powers says his department is in the process of submitting a grant request to obtain an explosive detection K-9 of their own. The dogs are to be treated the same as a working police officer and anyone interested in petting the dogs must ask the handler's permission first. Powers explains some of the dogs are cross-trained for other forms of police work, and for that reason, cannot be petted.