By Barry Wilner - Associated Press
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — A shoving match breaks out in a section of the MetLife Stadium stands. While security officers hustle to the scene, a beyond state-of-the-art surveillance system is recording every detail.
No more conflicting accusations and complaints. The cameras show all.
The cameras installed late last year before the stadium hosted the Super Bowl feature a mega-pixel system that provides comprehensive, undisrupted video coverage throughout every part of the venue. MetLife Stadium previously won a security award and recently was nominated for another one for the system, which cost close to $1 million. Praise has come from the NFL for implementing a program that the league wants expanded to every team's home.
"We can validate people's accounts of any dispute, see what actually happened," says Daniel DeLorenzi, director of security and safety services at MetLife Stadium, which opened in 2010. "We can simply call our command center, see on video exactly who was involved and what occurred.
"The video also has evidentiary value; it's been used to see if anyone should be arrested and who."
It's also utilized when medical issues crop up somewhere in the building.
"You get unique situations with 80,000 people in your stadium," DeLorenzi adds. "The diversity makes this system invaluable."
From the command center, video operators can watch every nook and cranny of the stadium except inside the luxury boxes.
"The idea is to see every seat in the bowl," DeLorenzi says.
Cameras also monitor concourses, escalators, the outside of the building and the parking lots. The system has the ability to provide views of about a quarter-mile away, showing surrounding roadways and even the Giants' practice facility.
It took several months of investigating products and suppliers before the stadium settled on the camera design by Arecont Vision and management of the system by Genetec Security Center, according to MetLife Stadium President and CEO Brad Mayne. Installation took nine months, but the system was in place well before last February's Super Bowl.
The stadium has about 40 events a year, including 10 home dates each for the Giants and Jets, college football games, concerts and motor racing.
And it's not all about the cameras. When the stadium opened, DeLorenzi implemented a program emphasizing fan conduct.
If someone is ejected from MetLife Stadium, that person is banned for all events until completing a readmittance program. That program entails having the barred person fill out a form that basically is an ejection report; explain to DeLorenzi what his or her actions were; and take an online conduct course vowing to act responsibly.
Once that person has a certificate of completion, readmittance is granted.
"We've had no repeat offenders from people who have taken the class," says DeLorenzi.
The NFL is so impressed with the fan conduct course it will be making it mandatory throughout the league.
What began as an alcohol awareness class morphed into a program addressing other issues. The class includes anger management and stress management techniques courses to provide an understanding of the impact of bad behavior on others.
"Our class registrations are up," says Ray DiNunzio, the NFL's director of strategic security programs. "If fans violate one of the principle tenets, they are required to be ejected from the stadium and prohibited from returning to the stadium until completing the course. And new in 2014, they are barred from any NFL stadium."
DiNunzio notes the "number of ejections are way below 1 percent" of people in attendance at games. There were fewer than 8,000 ejections leaguewide in 2013.
"We will have a better picture of compliance after the fan conduct inspection process concludes this season," he said.
Fans can report issues at the New Jersey Meadowlands stadium directly to the security command center in the bowels of the building through texting to 78247 and typing "MLS," followed by a request for assistance and a location; by calling a Hotline at 201 559-1515; or by sending a tweet to @MLStadium.
The stadium also has undercover security and police officers who play a role in game-day security.
"We're tracking stats as much as we can to learn if the fan conduct class is an effective tool," DiNunzio says. "The last thing we want is to have a program that requires this much effort on the part of the fan and the league and for it to not be effective."
MetLife Stadium's DeLorenzi has no doubt about the effectiveness of the course and of the camera system.
"The message is simply that what you do and how you behave is subject to scrutiny," he says. "And we have the means there to see what you did."