Stark County's law enforcement officers are preparing for an increase in the number of people who attend enshrinement weekend because of the expected build-out of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village.
Undercover officers. Drone footage. Social media monitoring.
Tactics used to deter crime during major special events across the country also are used — or will be — during the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, which typically draws about 700,000 people to Canton during 2 1/2 weeks of events.
Stark County's law enforcement officers are preparing for an increase in the number of people who attend enshrinement weekend because of the expected build-out of Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village. Some of the officers in charge of security for the annual event last month took a course that covered event safety as part of their planning for future enshrinements. The Canton Repository attended the two-day Federal Emergency Management Agency class, too.
The city of Canton's first responders are expected to be the primary first responders handling day-to-day emergencies at the planned Village, according to an agreement between the city and developers, and they also will continue to be able to charge for safety services provided during special events.
Of the 17 people who took last month's FEMA event security planning class — including representatives from the Canton Police Department, the Stark County Sheriff's Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, Kent State University at Stark, the Stark County Emergency Management Agency and the Repository — about one-third said they were there because of their involvement with the Hall enshrinement and its anticipated growth.
The class covered best practices in planning and organizing safety resources for special events that draw large crowds and dealt with topics such as identifying and assessing risks, gathering intelligence, staffing and managing the event, and dealing with media.
Bobby Day, who is a retired member of the Kentucky State Police, taught the class. He trained safety personnel prior to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and also has handled security training for the Kentucky Derby.
Here's some of what was discussed:
• How to identify potential threats before an event and then deter them
Some of the issues identified as potential challenges to safety included weather, events that are multi-day and multi-location, fireworks, carnival rides, the type of crowd that will be attracted to the event, and any ongoing political unrest locally or nationally.
• How to gather information or intelligence before and during an event to keep people safe
The best way to get on-the-ground intelligence, Day said, is to use undercover officers who look and act like the other people who are attending the event. The Secret Service does this, he said, and at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016, undercover officers infiltrated the picket lines.
Other options are to use video cameras or drones and to have someone monitoring social media about the event.
For enshrinement week, the Stark County Sheriff's Office works with the FBI to gather intelligence and does rely on drones, law enforcement officers said during the class.
• How to secure an event space
Securing outside events — which is where most enshrinement events take place — is "almost impossible," Day said. He suggested using bracelets to indicate people who have been vetted and removing people without bracelets. The trouble with credentials, he warned, is they can be traded.
• How to control a crowd
Protests are at an all-time high now, Day said, pointing out even an NFL game can be politically charged. He said law enforcement agencies most often have to write checks for slip-ups related to how they handled non-violent, non-criminal protests and civil disobedience and recommended special training for police who are working events. Training should include search and seizure, use of force and First and Fourth Amendment issues.
Some of the new ideas suggested related to the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement weekend were to designate an Uber drop-off spot and to tweet about traffic slowdowns so people know to avoid routes that are backed-up.
Enshrinement weekend safety relies on help from multiple law enforcement agencies, but the plan for year-round safety services at the Village is Canton police and fire will respond to emergencies there.
An operations agreement between developers and the city of Canton says the city agrees to provide "customary" police, fire and safety services to all areas of the city, including to the Tourism Development District that encompasses the Village.
Property is being annexed into the city of Canton from Plain Township as developers acquire it.
The agreement also stipulates the city will be permitted to charge the Village for safety services provided for special events, as it has done in the past. That includes the Hall's big concert, enshrinement, and other events that are larger-than-usual, city Law Director Joseph Martuccio said.
Overtime costs for police and fire protection during the 2017 enshrinement festival totaled nearly $330,000, city expense records provided to The Canton Repository through a records request show. The Hall typically provides some reimbursement to the city for the services. The city is awaiting payment for 2017 yet, according to the city's finance director.
In addition, the fire department spent $30,285 providing overtime service to the Village for non-festival events, the documents show.
An economic impact study released in 2015 estimated the Village eventually could draw 3 million visitors annually, putting the attraction's projected attendance below the attendance levels at Cedar Point and Hersheypark. Both of those amusement parks employ in-house EMTs and security officers.
Construction on the anticipated Village stalled in late 2017, and 13 local contractors are owed more than $7 million for their work on Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, county records show. Hall officials have said financing for the estimated $800 million, 10-part Village has been identified but have not provided additional details.
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