Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police are gearing up for the Carolina Panthers playoff game this weekend, increasing their presence uptown starting Friday and encouraging fans to take extra steps to safeguard themselves.
The department is expecting about 75,000 fans to attend Sundays game at Bank of America Stadium. Thousands more will likely watch the game at bars and restaurants in uptown, said Capt. Mike Campagna, the head of CMPDs Central Division.
What we see is a lot more hype a lot more events going on, a lot more bars hosting parties, a lot more of our venues uptown that are attracting people to the game, Campagna said. Were just going to have a lot more energy.
The city has not designated Sundays game a significant event, which gives officers expanded powers to search and question people, but the department will deploy more officers on foot and on bike throughout the weekend, Campagna said.
Campagna said several issues crop up during game days that could be bigger problems on Sunday:
• Cars: Theres very little on-street parking uptown during Panthers games as the city takes measures to allow traffic to flow as freely as possible.
You dont want to park at any bagged meter, regardless if theres someone standing there with an orange flag, Campagna said. There are some people that will try to direct you to bad places and take your money, and then you come out and your car is towed.
He encouraged fans who drive to hide any valuables kept in their cars or take them with them, and to lock all doors.
• Tickets: People who buy tickets on the street from scalpers do so at your own risk, Campagna said.
Theres a national circuit of counterfeit ticket (sellers) that follow teams that do really well, he said. We know theyll be in town. Thats why were asking citizens to be cognizant of who theyre buying tickets from.
The safest bet is to buy tickets from the ticket office or an authorized dealer. Buyers can call the Panthers ticket office and read the bar code at the bottom of a ticket to make sure its valid. The offices phone number is 704-358-7800.
Campagna said police would investigate claims of fraudulent tickets but wouldnt say whether undercover officers or other investigators would target scalpers.
• Behavior: Fans tend to be more emotional during playoff games, Campagna said.
The department plans to deploy additional officers uptown on Friday and Saturday night, when San Francisco 49er fans in town for the game may head to the center city. He said officers dont anticipate problems.
Its a high-stakes game. Emotions are going to be high. If we win, Ive got 60- or 70,000 happy fans and a few sad fans. If we lose, it goes the other way.
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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