By WILLIAM PETROSKI, firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t look now, Hawkeye fans, but Big Brother is peering over your shoulder.
As crowds fill Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City and Jack Trice Stadium in Ames this week for the kickoff of the 2010 gridiron season, video cameras will zoom to watch whether fans mind their business or get drunk and cause trouble.
Neither stadium warns fans they may be being watched electronically — part of increasingly sophisticated efforts to monitor behavior that has sometimes gotten out of hand.
Backed by a force of 100 police officers and 200 private security guards, the University of Iowa has 27 video cameras scanning the stands at Kinnick Stadium and the concourses, and to a limited degree in parking lots. University of Iowa officials are promising a crackdown on unruly drinking this year, including a ban on alcohol consumption in parking lots and ramps one hour after games are over. At Iowa State University, police from four law enforcement agencies and private security officers — the school won’t say how many — oversee crowds and monitor traffic outside the stadium with the help of six video cameras mounted on tall poles.
The video surveillance systems aren’t new. Both systems were installed about four years ago, and Kinnick Stadium had a more modest video camera setup earlier. But many fans don’t realize they are being watched electronically.
Joe Chmelka, president of the Polk County I-Club, a Hawkeye booster organization, said he has no qualms about the practice.
“It’s one of those deals where if you walk into anyplace any more, even to buy gas, it seems like they are taking pictures of you,” Chmelka said.
Wayne Whipps, a die-hard Cyclone fan from Dike, feels the same way. He said Iowa State officials do an excellent job of providing game-day security and he has no objections to the electronic measures. “It doesn’t concern me at all. I’m all for it,” he added.
But Ben Stone, executive director of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union, who attended two Cyclone games at Jack Trice Stadium last year, said the devices have a potential for abuse. One of his worries: camera operators using the equipment to shoot videos of female fans, then uploading the videos on the Internet. Officials at both schools need to make sure such incidents don’t happen, he said, explaining, “There’s a creepy side to this.”
U of I Public Safety Director Chuck Green insists fans have nothing to worry about.
“We are not looking to pick people out of the crowd. We are looking to identify problems that present themselves during the game. … This is to assist officers. If we get a call, as we often do, we will try to train the camera on that section to see if we can identify the problem and make sure the officers are safe once they arrive,” Green said.
ISU Police Chief Jerry Stewart said the videos are examined after a game to evaluate congestion in aisles and concourse areas, as well as traffic entering and exiting the stadium. The videos usually aren’t used to prosecute unruly fans, he said.
Video surveillance has become common at many sports venues, ranging from German soccer games to last winter’s Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada. Spokesmen at the University of Missouri and the University of Illinois said both use security cameras to monitor football crowds. At the University of Minnesota’s new TCF Bank Stadium, there are 96 cameras tracking crowd movement and behavior, an official said. An NCAA spokesman said the organization has no guidelines regarding use of security cameras.
Providing security at Kinnick Stadium, which seats about 70,000 people, and at Jack Trice Stadium, which seats about 55,000, has become a complicated business.
Besides using video, Iowa State uses six radio frequencies manage game day communications between law enforcement, fire, emergency medical care, athletics and parking operations.
Both schools also allow fans to report problems during games by sending a text message to stadium officials, who will assign someone to check out the report.
When a big football game is held in Iowa City, arrests can easily total 30 to 40 people, Green said. Kinnick Stadium has holding cells where game-goers are kept until they can be taken to the Johnson County Jail. But starting this fall more people will be cited and released to a responsible adult, such as a family member or friend, to reduce jail crowding, Green added.
At Jack Trice Stadium, the number of arrests is far lower with only 48 people arrested during the six-game home football schedule last year. More than 200 others were issued citations.
Jon Fleming, an Ames physician and a University of Iowa graduate who cheers for the Cyclones, said he feels safe attending Cyclone football games at Jack Trice Stadium. But said he’s noticed a difference when he returns to his alma mater in Iowa City for Cyclone-Hawkeye match-ups.
“Their fans are a little bit different breed compared to our fans, so I think they probably need more security over there. You can quote me on that. I think Iowa State fans are probably a little more civil to their opponents and the opposing fans. As an alum of Iowa, of course the fans who are unruly don’t realize I am an alum, but I don’t feel there is a lot of respect for opposing fans over there. I just think, in general, Iowa State fans are more mature and civil,” Fleming said.
Ted Sueppel, an Iowa City businessman and past president of the Johnson County I-Club, said he supports tougher rules on Kinnick Stadium tailgaters, although he’s heard some complaints.
“My opinion is that they are trying to keep everything safe over there. I don’t see a problem if somebody is there for an hour or two after the game, but I am not the one who has to police the situation,”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football