Agency delivers massive security effort at Super Bowl LV during global pandemic
On Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs kicked off Super Bowl LV to a stadium about 38% full – the lowest in-person attendance ever recorded in the history of the big game.
Though millions more watched the big game – the first ever held during a global pandemic – from the comfort and protection of their own homes this year, and the stadium was filled with more cardboard cutouts than people, for CBP, it was business as usual leading up to and through game day.
The Super Bowl, America’s most watched sporting event and television broadcast, is a national special security event, and CBP’s long-standing partnership with the NFL to support security operations takes years of advance planning and coordination. More than 45 agents from Air and Marine Operations – the agency’s aviation and maritime experts – patrolled the skies above the stadium and the waterways in the area. Nearly 90 CBP officers and more than 40 U.S. Border Patrol agents on the ground kept attendees safe and worked diligently to permit the entry of safe and legitimate products and goods.
To heighten awareness of and help combat human trafficking, CBP also supported law enforcement partners to highlight the agency’s anti-trafficking efforts and resources in advance of the Super Bowl.
Around the U.S., NFL fans and enthusiasts could be seen sporting their favorite team’s authentic jersey, snacking on delectable goodies, and purchasing Super Bowl products and face masks – all the while not realizing that each item most likely passed through the hands and trained eye of a CBP officer, agriculture specialist and/or import specialist to ensure customers get exactly what they paid for.
When it comes to safety and security for the Super Bowl, consumers should not forget intellectual property rights, said Vernon Foret, CBP’s lead for this year’s Super Bowl operations.
As of Feb. 3, CBP had coordinated with other partner government agencies to conduct seven NFL-related seizures worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, intercepting counterfeit Super Bowl LV and NFL merchandise in violation of trademark, copyright and patent rights. If not stopped by CBP, counterfeit items could have legal implications, economic impacts, and health and safety risks for consumers.
“So as we often say when we’re out there, if the price looks too good to be true, it often is,” Foret said.
Air and Marine Operations agents in three UH-60 Black Hawks and one AS350 helicopter supported security operations and enforced temporary flight restrictions around Raymond James Stadium. The aircrews were prepared to track, intercept, identify and investigate any low- and slow-flying aircraft that entered the flight-restricted space.
“Air and Marine Operations brings a unique capability with the assets that we have and subject matter expertise with the crewman that we bring to provide security and safety for those attending Super Bowl LV this year,” Supervisory Air Interdiction Agent Todd Gayle said.
In four boats, agents patrolled and protected the downtown Tampa Riverwalk area and designated security zones where many Super Bowl-related special events took place.
“For the Super Bowl, our role is to patrol the waterways here locally in downtown Tampa with our law enforcement partners in a marine environment,” Air and Marine Agent Anthony Cacciurri said. “And that would just be making sure everyone behaves themselves, making sure no boats anchor up and also making sure no boats tie up to the docks here in the area because that’s restricted during the event.”
CBP officers inspected vehicles and cargo entering Raymond James Stadium using X-ray systems to search for explosives, weapons and other contraband. The teams conducted more than 150 daily X-ray inspections leading up to the Super Bowl.
“We use our latest technology and our [X-ray] machines with our expertise to inspect all of the provision trucks and cargo containers entering the stadium,” Supervisory CBP Officer William Prado said.
CBP’s Special Response Team, a rapid response force of specially trained CBP officers, was also on standby, ready and available to respond in the event of an emergency.
U.S. Border Patrol assisted with border security enforcement actions on land and in the water to deter illicit activity ahead of Super Bowl LV all the while ensuring the health and safety of agents and the public due to COVID-19.
“Throughout the many challenges encountered during the last year, including the global pandemic, Border Patrol agents across the country never lost focus of the mission, to secure America’s borders and ensure the safety and security our citizens,” Acting Chief Patrol Agent Thomas Martin out of Miami said. “Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, our Border Patrol agents remain vigilant and continue to perform their duties in support of our border security mission and to keep America safe.”
With Super Bowl LV concluded and CBP operations shut down, planning and coordination will continue for the next big game, as supporting extensive security operations is a coordinated effort that ensures a safe and secure event, said Foret.