In this time of continued social unrest and gun violence, organizations are accelerating their strategies to better secure their facilities and surrounding premises to prevent tragedies and mass casualty events. This includes professional sports teams and venues, who have a responsibility to keep thousands of people safe – hence the need to keep weapons out.
These organizations must also consider the broader experience of attending an event – for fans and venue staff alike. Recently, the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security (NCS4) published its annual venue security director industry report, in which it surveyed 40 venue directors on staffing and training, fan behavior, technology used for patron screening and more. This document provides comprehensive insights to aid security practitioners as they evaluate their security posture. The respondents came from various professional sports organizations such as teams from the MLB, NHL and NBA.
Overall, the NCS4’s report found that fan behavior is worse now than it was a decade ago, security staffing continues to be a big challenge for venues post-COVID-19, and patron security screening is a slow process, with many facilities using outdated technology. Here we break down the report’s three big takeaways: staffing and training; patron screening technology; and fan behavior.
Staffing and training
Nearly 100% of the respondents (95%) said they experienced staffing shortages in the last two years – COVID-19 being the primary reason. During the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, many stadiums and arenas (across industries) had to reduce staff to manage operational costs due to cancelling in-person events. As restrictions began easing and venues were ready to welcome back patrons, staff were still reluctant to go back to work, or they found jobs elsewhere as part of the “Great Resignation” that most of the country experienced. Additionally, over 97.4% of respondents said they have taken action to mitigate staff shortages, with nearly 92% saying they did this by increasing the hourly wage, and other incentives. As part of this, a large majority of responding organizations (90%) said they are also contracting a third-party security staff service provider. This in itself can cause further security challenges.
The shortage of staff and rotating personnel creates new security vulnerabilities that can best be mitigated with technology. Requiring fewer people is one of the key benefits of technology, as is redeploying those people in such a way that you create more value and business efficiencies. Modern weapons detection technology is an example of this: it can help cut down the number of guards required at each entrance, while increasing security, so others can be deployed to other higher-value tasks within the facility.
Patron screening technology
While a majority (87.5%) of respondents said they use patron screening technology (mostly walk-through metal detectors), the same amount said it causes security lines to form outside of the venue. This is a problem for a couple of reasons: patrons are greeted with a negative experience before they even get in the door, and lines outside the venue can lead to crowd unrest and fights, bringing new security risks. Nearly 1/3 of respondents (32.5%) said they have experienced security incidents between patrons waiting in line to enter the venue – something that can be easily mitigated by implementing the right technology to eliminate lines. Additionally, “soft targets” of large crowds waiting on ingress creates a new security concern.
Most respondents in the report said they wish their patron screening technology could get people in faster without sacrificing security accuracy. However, only 20% of respondents said they were using AI in their security screening. This is a missed opportunity, since the AI used in screening devices is incredibly accurate and more secure than legacy options. If given additional budget, respondents said they would acquire more security technology, such as facial recognition systems (37.5%), automated barrier systems (25%) and millimeter wave scanners (17.5%).
COVID -19 has forever changed the landscape of social interactions and became a trigger-point for shifts in social behavior at a time when society was struggling with several issues. Stadiums and arenas reflect society as a whole, with the same demographics such as bad actors, unruly individuals and those who feel emboldened and enabled following COVID. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents to the NCS4 report say they have experienced significantly increased tension between patrons and staff, with alcohol abuse being the most common form of inappropriate fan behavior (82.5%).
Additionally, respondents weighed in on what kind of negative fan behavior concerns them most, and what they have actually experienced. While only 2.5% of respondents stated that weapons were the most common form of inappropriate fan behavior, 47.5% were most concerned with weapons – showing that keeping weapons out of venues is clearly a priority. There are other concerns that should be addressed as well, including fights between patrons and violence against staff members. 72.5% said the former was the most concerning fan behavior while 60% said the latter. The right security technology can not only keep weapons out of the facilities; it can detect disturbances in crowds and proactively arm security personnel with valuable information when they respond to the incident.
This report shows how seriously fan experience is being considered alongside security, but there are still areas to explore and improve upon. Patriot One is proud to be part of the NCS4’s Technology Alliance as it continues its work to better understand the threat environment, identify vulnerabilities, communicate risk-mitigation techniques and close capability gaps.
To access the full report, please visit the NCS4’s website.
To talk with a Patriot One representative about implementing our next-generation security technology in your venue, contact us.