Tighter coverage at the Vet

We aren't talking Eagles, here. City and stadium officials announced Thursday their plans to turn Veterans Stadium into a thug-free zone during NFL games. Details in the Inquirer and Daily News.

Can Eagles fans be tamed? Tell us in Talk Show.

[source: http://www.phillynews.com/daily_news/97/Nov/21/local/]

November 21, 1997

This ref has a gavel

With judge to provide instant justice, it's fourth down for stadium thugs

by Edward Moran
Daily News Sports Writer

Seamus Patrick McCaffery has a make-my-day look.

Sunday, the Municipal Court judge will take it to Veterans Stadium -- along with 135 city cops and an undetermined number of private security guards -- as the city and Eagles begin a long-awaited crackdown on rowdiness.

Two judges will be presiding during each game and are volunteering for the duty. McCaffery and Municipal Judge Louis Presenza will sit on Sunday.

For the thugs who like beating up spectators who are wearing another team's colors, the city has a special surprise Sunday, when Pittsburgh comes to play the Eagles.

Some of the people walking around Veterans Stadium wearing Steelers jackets will be undercover security guards.

Go ahead, make their day, too.

"If you plan to come to an Eagles game and your behavior is outrageous in any way, you will be arrested," McCaffery said. "There will be serious and fast results. Fines will be high and if you can't pay, then you'll go to jail."

The Eagles also are setting a "zero tolerance" policy that calls for revocation of any season tickets held by people who directly or indirectly participate in rowdy behavior, team owner Jeffrey Lurie said.

Additionally, concession-stand operators will become more vigilant enforcing the team's existing policy of not selling beer to minors or drunks.

The crackdown will continue through the rest of the season.
"We are going to take care of the small minority of fans who make the quality of life lower than what it should be at Veterans Stadium," said Lurie, who already has promised to sue some miscreants.

"If this is not effective," he added, "we are going to go a lot further."

McCaffery found his make-my-day face in the Marine Corps, polished it as a Philadelphia homicide detective and perfected it as a judge in the city's neighborhood night courts.

Now, he's joining a crackdown that started in 1986. Beer was banned from the parking lot three years later, the same year then-private-citizen Ed Rendell egged on a fan to see if he could hit the field with a snowball -- a move Rendell later called "stupid." The snowball throwing also brought a renewed crackdown on drinking in the stadium parking lots.

Since then, there have been attempts to stem the flow of flasks into the stadium and even a ban on beer sales after halftime.

This year, Lurie hired undercover cops to scour the stands to pick up people puffing on marijuana after the Daily News reported that fans were getting high in droves.

But nothing has stopped the clowns from erupting.

The final straw for Rendell came this week, when someone called a talk show and described the Vet as unsafe for children.

"When people say that the average Eagles fan knows that they can't take kids to the game, we can't stand by and accept that," Rendell said.

Talk shows have been buzzing after a particularly nasty Monday night game, Nov. 10. Season ticketholder Scott Reader, of Maple Shade, N.J., said he was beaten by five thugs because his friend wore a New York Giants jacket. He'll be out of work for possibly six months with a crushed ankle.

Also during the same game, police arrested Robert Sellers, of Toms River, N.J., for allegedly firing a flare across the field. No one was injured.

"Monday night was a real setback, and something that we are not going to tolerate," said Lurie, who claims the last few years have seen a decline in lawlessness during games.

Lurie said the undercover cops will join a beefed-up Eagles security force. The officers and security police are prepared to drag offenders out of their seats and haul them immediately before McCaffery's court. There, they'll arraign offenders, check their records, hear witnesses -- and impose fines between $250 and $350.

The fines will cover a wide variety of "quality-of-life crimes," including disorderly conduct, carrying open alcoholic containers, and underage drinking.

People arrested for more serious crimes will also be processed on the spot inside the stadium.

Fines will be demanded on the spot, McCaffery said. Those who do not have the money in their pocket but can demonstrate an ability to pay will be given a "reasonable" amount of time to get the money.

"If they can demonstrate a capacity to pay, and they have no outstanding fines or warrants, they will be allowed to leave and pay later. If they can't pay, or don't pay within that period, I will sentence them to 30 days in jail," McCaffery said.

McCaffery, who usually watches the game either at home or at the Vet, said volunteering to attack stadium rowdiness"is far more important than watching a football game.

  ©1997 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.
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