CBP Brings Security Expertise to Super Bowl
When Super Bowl LIII fans arrive to cheer on their favored team this Sunday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will be working behind the scenes to ensure a safe environment for everyone. CBP assets and 149 agents and officers are supporting local law enforcement and playing a pivotal role in securing operations on the ground and in the sky around the game in Atlanta.
The Office of Field Operations (OFO) is screening truckloads of beer, bread, potato chips, soda and all the food and supplies needed to run the big event. OFO’s Special Response Teams are augmenting Atlanta police and other law enforcement departments, and agents from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations (AMO) are securing the airspace surrounding Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
All of that activity is coordinated through command centers in Atlanta and at Hartsfield International Airport which are staffed by local, state and federal law enforcement as well as military staff. CBP radios are programmed to communicate with each component.
About 300 deliveries per day arrive at the stadium from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. OFO set up two lanes to channel the heavy traffic through two mobile X-ray portals, said Donald Yando, director of field operations for CBP’s Atlanta Field Office, who’s also responsible for all of the agency’s Super Bowl operations.
The portals consist of an X-ray machine suspended from an adjustable arm extending from a truck that slowly drives alongside the arriving tractor-trailer or van. Scanning takes just a few minutes. Those vehicles are previously scanned for radiation by the Department of Energy to detect explosives. OFO officers also wear radiation detectors, said Yando.
“The effort is going along very smoothly,” he said. “We found a minimal number of anomalies that required further examination.”
That’s because much is already known about a delivery well before the truck arrives at the stadium. “Drivers must book an appointment with the NFL and the Atlanta police, stating the date and time of arrival, allowing the driver to be checked out,” Yando explained.
As in the past, the scammers were at it again, peddling all sorts of fake Super Bowl paraphernalia—jerseys, hats and other souvenirs. CBP collaborated with U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations along with local and state and law enforcement components to seize over $24 million of the phony merchandise. Thursday, CBP Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez unveiled many of these confiscated items during a news conference in Atlanta.
“CBP is proud to partner with ICE, the IPR Center and local authorities to protect businesses and consumers from intellectual property thieves that produce counterfeit and often defective and dangerous merchandise,” said CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
Super Bowl’s Atlanta location offers an advantage for security operations because assets are concentrated close by, unlike last year’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis where deliveries were scanned 20 miles away and then escorted to the stadium by the National Guard, he pointed out.
OFO’s Special Response Team is working with Atlanta police to help secure venues throughout the city such as the team owner’s dinner or the NFL Experience, a convention of vendors, concessions and media that draws thousands of fans. Other response team members are working with AMO as a “quick reaction force,” who can be flown anywhere and tactically inserted by repelling from a hovering helicopter — fast rope, as it’s called — said Air Interdiction Agent Dave Grantham.
AMO is securing the skies with six UH60 Black Hawk and three AH350 helicopters and a Super King Air 350 aircraft based out of nearby Dobbins Air Reserve base in Marietta, Georgia. The aircraft — supported by 67 AMO personnel that includes 15 maintenance technicians — are equipped with cameras providing real time video to all command centers.
“AMO aircraft will be conducting flight operations enforcing the TFR (temporary flight restriction) around the stadium on Super Bowl day,” Grantham said. TFRs are issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to keep aircraft out of airspace where certain events take place—anything from a natural disaster, to high-level public events to a presidential visit.
The Super Bowl TFR will keep AMO busy. Beginning at 3 p.m. to midnight on game day, the airspace for 30-nautical miles around the stadium up to 18,000 feet is restricted. Only law enforcement, medical and military aircraft can be cleared into the area by air traffic control.
Violators will be intercepted by AMO. “We will attempt to establish communication by radio or hand signals to steer the aircraft away from the prohibited airspace,” Grantham said. Pilots violating the TFR face significant FAA penalties.
CBP’s broad array of operational support is critical to securing the Super Bowl, which is regularly the highest rated television program of the year in the United States.
“CBP’s support is vital to ensuring an incident-free Super Bowl experience because we bring unique equipment and expertise to this operation found nowhere else,” Grantham said.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with securing the borders of the United States while enforcing hundreds of laws and facilitating lawful trade and travel.