Investigation finds holes in security at big sports events

7:02 AM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- A report reveals surprising holes in stadium security across the country. It's raising questions about how safe we are at large sporting events.

The Tampa Bay Rays will be back in town playing at Tropicana Field on Monday -- and on the way in, fans will pass the people who are the last line of defense at venues like this: private security workers.

They'll have you take off your hat and likely rifle through your bag. But a nationwide investigation released Thursday night by our partners at USA Today shows troubling holes in the system at many sporting events.

The investigation found several potential problems with security workers hired to protect these venues.

They're often part time, with schedules that are all over the place. Security companies say their workers generally only stay in the job for one or two years.

Four major problems were revealed:

Criminal backgrounds

Over the past five years, Florida has revoked about 350 security guard licenses each year because of people's criminal records.

Training and licensing gaps

Florida has one of the best training requirements in America, with 40 mandatory hours. Seven states don't license security workers at all.

Cost-cutting undermines security

Experts say most big teams hire security based on cost, or through a low-bid process. They say budget pressures can lead to cutting corners.

Trying to beat the system

The head of one security company says some venues use "event staff" instead of higher-paid trained security to search bags and perform other security jobs. It can lower costs and be used to avoid training requirements.

These problems can combine to have real consequences. 

TV station KDVR last year sneaked fake and real guns into stadiums and arenas in Denver. They had a concealed weapons permit for the real pistol, but certainly no permission to bring it in.

Experts say if there are holes in the system, then all of the wanding and searching outside stadiums amounts to what they call "security theater."

It's designed to make us all feel better, but doesn't do what's really needed to prevent an incident.

This USA Today investigation does give details on specific ballparks or stadiums.

It was released late Thursday night, so we have not talked with representatives from Tampa Bay's sports teams yet. We will be following up with them as Friday morning goes on.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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