MINNEAPOLIS - There could be as many as one million visitors descending on the streets of Minneapolis leading up to the Super Bowl on February 4.
Many of the festivities surrounding the big game are free and open to the public and will take place primarily along a six-block stretch downtown. It’s being called “Super Bowl Live,” and it’ll have Minnesota-themed activities booths, winter sports, even free concerts—Idina Menzel will sing from the movie “Frozen” at Friday night’s opening celebration.
As it always is, security surrounding the Super Bowl and its associated events is a massive undertaking.
In a recent interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Minneapolis Police Commander Scott Gerlicher—the Super Bowl’s public safety commander—called it the “largest extended public safety operation” the area has ever experienced and said the perimeter surrounding U.S. Bank Stadium is expected to be larger than the perimeter around the Republican National Convention.
Minneapolis Police have been working hand in hand with the various state agencies, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security for about two years now. But this year they’ll have even more assistance in the form of the 10,000 Super Bowl 52 volunteers; all of them are being trained by a non-profit group that specializes in terror prevention training.
“We’re really just training them on some key indicators on what they could be mindful of throughout their volunteer duties,” said Jordan Clark, assistant director of Denver-based Counterterrorism Education Learning Lab.
Clark said they worked hand in hand with Minneapolis Police to modify their training curriculum—certified by the Department of Homeland Security—to be tailored specifically for Super Bowl 52 volunteers.
They put together a video, narrated by two victims of the Boston bombing, outlining various indicators volunteers should be on the look out for, like unattended packages or bags, vehicles that look weighted down or are smoking, open hotel room windows—a rarity in Minnesota in February--anyone who may appear to be timing out the bus schedule, taking photos of security cameras, or anyone asking when crowd sizes downtown are expected to be largest.
“So many of us across the country are recognizing the phrase ‘if you see something, say something,’” said volunteer Kimberley Hansen. “And I think we are all becoming much more diligent about that awareness, that observation--still being very welcoming but being hyper vigilant about what might go wrong.”
Volunteers are instructed to find the nearest law enforcement officer to tell them about anything or anyone they notice exhibiting suspicious behavior, and to be mindful not to profile anyone based on their race, sexual orientation, or perceived religious affiliation.
Liz Paetow, another volunteer, said it’s just a reality of the era we live in and said she doesn’t plan to let the warnings about security affect her enjoyment of the week’s festivities.
“All we can do as the 10,000 volunteers is try to help prevent something from happening,” Paetow said. “Hopefully we can stop something from happening.”