NFL security chief attends 49ers game
The NFL sent its top security man to the Bay Area for the weekend to meet with police and security and reassure fans that the league is serious about preventing a repeat of the violence that marred a recent 49ers-Oakland Raiders game.
NFL security chief Jeff Miller plans to report back to commissioner Roger Goodell that he is confident Candlestick Park will be a safe, secure venue for fans - and everybody else - this season after some extensive security upgrades.
He surveyed the scene Saturday during a 49ers exhibition game with the Houston Texans.
''Granted there's not as many people here and it's not exactly the same demographic as last week but I think the plan that the (49ers) demonstrated and what they're doing and the commitment they've shown to it is exemplary and I think it will carry forward throughout the entire season and create a safe environment for the fans here at Candlestick Park,'' Miller said.
Two men were shot in a parking lot outside the stadium following San Francisco's 17-3 win over the rival Raiders on Aug. 20. There were also numerous fights inside the stadium, including one man getting beaten unconscious in a bathroom.
The violence prompted the 49ers to ban tailgating once the game starts. They also said they would have additional police at games and postgame DUI checkpoints
Miller called the violence ''unsettling,'' and something the NFL is taking seriously and plans to ''change.''
''Preseason games across the league generally don't have the same fan base that attends the games throughout the season,'' Miller said. ''I really think a lot of the people who were here last weekend were not the true 49ers fans, they weren't the true Raiders fans. They were people who chose that evening event as their own crime scene, this location as their crime scene. They came here with the intent of maybe drinking a lot and getting involved in things they shouldn't have.''
Meanwhile, San Francisco police spokesman Albie Esparza said drunken outbursts and violent incidents were ''way below'' average at Saturday's game, a 30-7 Houston victory.
At the end of the night, there was one arrest, 12 people ejected, and two people cited for public intoxication. That was down significantly from Aug. 20, when more than 70 fans were ejected, 12 people were arrested and dozens of medical calls were made.
Esparza credited visible police presence on foot, bike and motorcycles and the DUI checkpoints at the park's exits.
Officers in patrol cars and on motorcycle and bikes asked tailgaters to go into the stadium after kickoff in accordance with the new rules. Once inside, a large sign above the first tier of seats that was put up following the violence encouraged fans to text a five-digit number to report ''unruly behavior.''
Fans said this week's matchup was a whole different ball game, so to speak.
Alex Enriquez, 24, of Santa Rosa chalked up some of the violence at last week's game to the charged atmosphere that the rivalry between the team and the cross-town Oakland Raiders generates.
''Raiders-Niners games are for adults,'' Enriquez said as he barbecued in a Candlestick Park parking lot with his two kids before the game against the Texans. ''People come for the controversy.''
Other tailgaters shared Enriquez's sentiment though some said they welcomed the team's additional security measures.
Cecilia Apostol, who attended the Aug. 20 game, said she was concerned about her safety and called the 49ers afterward to inquire about security.
''Once in a while you see fights, but last week was worse,'' Apostol said. She was with her daughter, son-in law and 12- and 5-year-old grandchildren tailgating in the parking lot.
Apostol bought a prepaid parking pass for Saturday's game to be closer to the stadium, where she said she thought she would be safer.
Police planned an increase of staffing by 10 percent at Saturday's game, with additional plainclothes and uniformed officers, Sgt. Michael Andraychak said.
The additional staffing was praised by 49ers defensive tackle Ray McDonald.
''That's good of the city to get more police in here to make sure it is organized, and there's not a whole lot of crime,'' McDonald said. ''You have little kids and family here. They just want to come and enjoy the game. They don't want to see anybody get in any fights or get shot.''