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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to beef up presence for Panthers’ playoff game

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com

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 Sunday’s 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 CMPD’s 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. “We’re just going to have a lot more energy.”

The city has not designated Sunday’s 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: There’s very little on-street parking uptown during Panthers games as the city takes measures to allow traffic to flow as freely as possible.

“You don’t want to park at any bagged meter, regardless if there’s 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.

“There’s a national circuit of counterfeit ticket (sellers) that follow teams that do really well,” he said. “We know they’ll be in town. That’s why we’re asking citizens to be cognizant of who they’re 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 it’s valid. The office’s phone number is 704-358-7800.

Campagna said police would investigate claims of fraudulent tickets but wouldn’t 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 don’t anticipate problems.

“It’s a high-stakes game. Emotions are going to be high. If we win, I’ve 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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