BALTIMORE – More than 100 million viewers will be looking at former Super Bowl MVP Ray Lewis playing in New Orleans in his last game this Sunday, but police in Baltimore will be watching Ravens fans back home.
Even though the game is being played out of town, the Baltimore Police Department will deploy Foxtrot helicopters and activate the camera center that displays real-time action on 600 cameras placed throughout the city. It will have more officers in “uniform capacity” monitoring traffic conditions and other police patrolling the streets in regular clothes looking out for “dangerous activity,” including fights and large crowds on Super Bowl Sunday, police said.
“We’ll have additional patrols out (looking for) impaired and distracted drivers,” State Police Public Information Officer Marc Black said.
Baltimore’s department will work with State Police, the Maryland Transportation Authority, and other agencies to close Pratt Street near the Inner Harbor and other roads, depending on traffic congestion, which will make it difficult to get into the city after the final whistle blows, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.
“We expect very large crowds and heavy congestion,” said Guglielmi, who advised fans who plan to watch or celebrate the big game in Baltimore just for the atmosphere to “get here, get here early.”
During the NFL lockout in 2011, Lewis famously said “Crime picks up if you take away our game” because “there’s nothing else to do.” However, studies demonstrating a positive correlation between crime rates and football games support the strategy to increase police presence.
“Sporting events in general, and especially those that involve high levels of violence, might cause fans to act more aggressively than they would otherwise,” according to a study by Daniel Rees and Kevin Schnepel that was circulated in the Journal of Sport Economics in 2009.
Research published by the University of Maryland in 2007 showed that more crimes are committed on game days, with increases in burglary and auto theft. While its author Chien-min Lin focused on regular season home games, the framework of the study uses a routine activities theory that may be applied to the larger athletic stage.
“Football fans change their routines when their favorite team is playing (which will) alter the frequency of the convergence of motivated offenders, suitable targets and the lack of capable guardians at the city level,” wrote Lin, suggesting that more criminal opportunities are available on game days.
Rees and Schnepel concluded that the host community of a college football game saw increases in assaults, vandalism and arrests for disorderly conduct and alcohol-related offenses.
Even players are not immune to the trend. Lewis’ controversy outside a nightclub in Atlanta in 2000 escalated past assault to murder when Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar were stabbed to death at the infamous Super Bowl XXIV celebration.
The star linebacker eventually pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice, a misdemeanor, and the murder charges against him were dropped as part of a plea agreement in which he received 12 months of probation for his testimony in the criminal case. The following year, Lewis raised the Lombardi trophy with his teammates after the Ravens blowout against the New York Giants.
Games in which the lower-ranked team upset the favored team were associated with the largest increases in expected criminal offenses, according to the research. Even so, the Baltimore Police Department is not rooting for the red and gold, despite the point spread favoring the 49ers.
“There may be no bigger agency that’s more of a Ravens fan,” said Guglielmi, who encouraged fans to act responsibly.
For officers, preparation consists of business as usual. Officers are doing “nothing in particular” for the day that frequently features the most-watched American TV broadcast.
“They’re just out there doing what they do,” Officer Steve Kent of Baltimore’s Southern District said.