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National security concerns haunt Jags game

City stepping up security for Thursday game

Jaguars linebackers Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta prepare to run onto the field at Wembley Stadium.
Jaguars linebackers Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta prepare to run onto the field at Wembley Stadium. (AP photo by Matt Dunham)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With the Jacksonville Jaguars taking on the Tennessee Titans Thursday night in Jacksonville, safety has become a concern following the terrorist attacks in Paris and other suspected terrorist operations in Europe.

Jacksonville is not the only city on high alert from the possibility of terror attacks with videos allegedly from ISIS saying they were planning attacks on cities like New York and Washington.

In Jacksonville, the Jags said fans should expect a longer-than-usual wait to get inside, and wanted to remind those headed to the game that they will be searched with a security wand and only clear plastic bags are allowed inside.

With people on edge, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said JSO is working to make sure everyone will be safe.

Mayor Lenny Curry sat down with Williams to discuss the plans for the game and said afterward there will be extra officers on duty. For security reasons they are not going to say how many more officers or where they will be stationed for the game, but said they are ready.

When asked, Williams said there were no direct threats made in relation to Thursday's game but they were continuing to monitor things to make sure they were prepared.

Jaguars linebackers Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta prepare to run onto the field at Wembley Stadium.
Jaguars linebackers Paul Posluszny and Dan Skuta prepare to run onto the field at Wembley Stadium.

"We don't have any direct threats. We deal with that information as it comes. We are tied in closely with all of our state and federal partners and get a lot of information along those lines from those partners and again we're connected with them every day. We're obviously paying close attention to that and have had a lot of conversations about that but no direct threats for the city today," Williams said.

The Jags also issued a statement for the game that said:

"Security for this game will be thorough, with enhanced messaging, including 'see something say something.' Everyone attending the game is encouraged to plan on arriving early and to expect some delays in entering the stadium."

If something were to happen while fans are in the stadium, News4Jax Crime and Safety Analyst Gil Smith said the best advice is not to panic.

"For the most part, the best thing to do is stay put in the stadium until you are instructed what to do," Smith said. "Because you are not sure exactly what is going on. If everyone starts doing a mass exit a lot of time people are crushed and do more damage. Or if you run outside, it could be an ambush-type situation with someone sitting out there waiting to shoot at people running outside the stadium."

He also wanted to remind fans that the people in the stadium have also been screened and chances are people will be safer in the stadium. Then listen to what security officials say when they determine where people should go.

Williams said this is just the start of many big events in Jacksonville and the city is working to make sure they are all safe.

"We have a significant number of events between now and the end of the year. We will have an increased emphasis on security at all of those events moving forward. Again, something you may not see, hopefully you don't see a lot of. We don't want to impact experiences that are happening at the Boat Parade, bowl game, or any of those things happening downtown. But we will have extra presence there and people may see that," Williams said.

The mayor said he plans to attend the game and is not worried.

Gates 1 and 4 open at 5:30 p.m. and all other gates open at 6:30 p.m.

ISIS' threats to other cities

As far as the threats to other cities across the U.S. counterterrorism expert and former SWAT team member Rick Parker said that those threats may not be legitimate and is surprised that French authorities were able to capture any of the terrorists alive.

"The history has always shown they're committed to their own death. And not in the hands of authorities in whatever country they're dealing with. But you've also got to know they've factored in a pattern of booby traps and waiting for first and second responders to arrive," Parker said.

Parker also said that the threat against New York could just be saber rattling by ISIS.

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He did say however that ISIS is starting to evolve in how it communicates by doing things like using encrypted apps, which are harder to track. Parker said it's not just as easy as wiretaps on phone calls anymore.

"We've always used monitoring of cell phone towers which has been a great avenue. I'm sure they're going to evolve. They know we've done this for years," Parker said.

The other issue of the day nationally when it comes to security concerns is whether to accept Syrian refugees. Parker said one issue from a security perspective is how good of a system the U.S. has to vet who's in the U.S.

"I think they're continuing to develop processes to vet refugees. But that said if you don't have concrete systems in place, I think there will be significant problems with who might be a refugee and who might be a terrorist," Parker said.

But as the Jags' only nationally televised regular season game is about to kick off, Curry and Williams are convinced that there is no threat against the game.


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