Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The summary of what is known about spectator violence in stadiums provides a very general overview. To understand your local spectator violence problem, you must combine this general knowledge with specific facts describing your local conditions. Using the spectator violence triangle as a framework for problem analysis, you may find other factors related to violence unique to the stadiums, event types, or staff used in your jurisdiction. Carefully analyzing your local problem will help you design an effective response strategy that fits your specific needs.

Stakeholders

In addition to criminal justice agencies, the following groups have an interest in the problem of spectator violence in stadiums, and you should consult them when gathering information about the problem and responding to it.

Traffic and transportation agencies. Local traffic and transportation agencies are critical partners in understanding and addressing the problem of spectator violence. These agencies can change or add traffic signs, redirect or restrict traffic flow, alter traffic-light timing to reduce congestion, and change when public transportation is available to fans. For example, an agency can schedule public transportation to pick up fans immediately after an event ends, to reduce loitering.

Private service companies. Private companies associated with the venue may be responsible for providing services such as selling food and beverages, staffing and training ushers, providing additional security, and managing souvenir sales. Staff employed through these companies may have firsthand knowledge of factors that tend to instigate spectator violence.

EMS providers, ambulance services, local hospitals. Medical personnel often handle the aftermath of spectator violence and may recognize factors that contribute to such events. These agencies may be able to provide data to use in your problem analysis. As experts in injury prevention, they can also be useful advocates to implement responses to your local problem.

Fire services. Local fire department personnel often attend stadium events. In addition to knowledge gained through firsthand experience at the venue, they may be aware of structural features that may serve to increase crowd frustration or pose safety hazards.

Event promoters, performers. Event promoters and performers can share information concerning the characteristics of the crowds they are likely to draw. They may be able to estimate the number of spectators they expect to attract to the event. They can also describe spectator behaviors experienced during prior similar events.

Local government officials. The mayor, city council, city manager, and local prosecutors and judges may know of city ordinances you can use to regulate event activities. They may also know of instances when these ordinances have been successfully (or unsuccessfully) used in the past. Local government officials can also gather the resources necessary to implement costly responses.

Stadium owners and managers. Stadium owners and managers are critical partners in planning violence prevention strategies. These people are ultimately responsible for the safety of those who use their properties. They can implement necessary changes to the property and require that event promoters adjust staffing levels. They can require that particular violence-reduction strategies be used at individual events. These restrictions can be placed in the contractual agreements performers and their promoters and managers must sign. Owners and managers may also be able to provide data on the effectiveness of previous violence-reduction strategies or descriptions of previous incidents.

Insurance companies. Since insurance companies have an interest in reducing the number of claims associated with their insured properties, they may be willing to help develop and fund violence-reduction strategies. You can also use them to pressure uncooperative owners and managers to respond to police requests.

The community. Research suggests that host communities experience more assaults, vandalism, and disorderly conduct on event days.62 Residents and business owners in neighborhoods adjacent to the event can help to identify and respond to potential problems. These individuals may provide information about activities that often lead to aggression (e.g., scalping of fake tickets, illegal parking, unlawful vending that disrupts local business, disorderly or destructive behavior by spectators who park off stadium property). They can also act as a "force multiplier" by reporting such behavior to police, who can intervene before the problem escalates.

Asking the Right Questions

Below is a list of questions you should ask to better understand your stadium spectator violence problem. The answers to these questions will help you choose the most appropriate responses and develop an effective strategy to reduce incidents of spectator violence in your local stadiums.

Incidents

  • How many incidents of spectator violence occur in your stadium or arena of interest? Be aware that, as with most crime, witnesses may not report many violent incidents, particularly minor incidents, which could indicate future trouble if left unaddressed.
  • What types of spectator violence (i.e., verbal, gesturing, missile throwing, swarming, property destruction, physical) occur most frequently?
  • What percentage of violence is between spectators, spectators and entertainers, spectators and stadium staff, and spectators and the venue?
  • What are the general circumstances surrounding spectator violence (e.g., are the spectators drunk, do spectators use items sold in or brought to the stadium as weapons or missiles, what other factors escalate the violence)?
  • How concerned are the various stakeholders with the problem of spectator violence? This information can be used to build partnerships and organize resources.
  • Does the problem contribute to any other problems (e.g., disorder or riots spilling into nearby neighborhoods)?
  • How long has spectator violence been a problem at the particular stadium? Are there other similar venues that do not generate the same level of spectator aggression? What is different about these venues?
  • Are there particular teams or performers associated with more spectator violence?

Locations/Times

  • Where does spectator violence occur in the stadium? Does it occur close to the stage/field, at entry or exit points, in lines, in hallways or staircases, in parking areas, or in particular seating sections?
  • When does spectator violence most frequently occur (e.g., at the beginning, middle, or end of the event)?
  • Are there certain times of day when incidents of spectator violence increase more frequently (e.g., in the morning, afternoon, evening, or late-evening/early-morning hours)?

Victims

  • Who are the victims of spectator violence? If people target some spectators more frequently, do particular demographic patterns (e.g., sex, age, team affiliation) exist among the victims?
  • What were the victims doing before the spectator violence (e.g., waiting in line, standing in their seats, cheering for their team, trying to control unruly spectators)?
  • Are the victims regulars at the venue, or infrequent guests?
  • How serious are the injuries resulting from spectator violence? Are they minor or do they tend to require medical attention? Keep in mind that many victims may not report minor injuries.

Venue Characteristics

  • How close are the spectators to the performers? What physical barriers separate spectators from entertainers? (Barriers can include guardrails, moats, stage elevation, and so forth).
  • Does the stadium facilitate pedestrian movement? How wide are the aisles and passageways relative to the number of spectators using them? Are there signs providing directions to important locations and people (e.g., seating sections, restrooms, food and beverage stands, security staff)?
  • Are points of interest (e.g., souvenir shops and food/beverage distributors) appropriately scattered throughout the venue, or are they lumped together in one or a few locations?
  • Are places where people are expected to wait in line clearly marked? Do these lines block other pedestrian flow?
  • Do restrooms, drinking fountains, food and beverage stands, and other service areas spectators use become overcrowded? Are these areas staffed appropriately and kept clean and orderly?
  • What type of seating is provided to spectators (e.g., festival seating, benches, individual seats)?
  • Do the access points facilitate the entry and dispersal process? Do enough of these points exist to keep congestion to a minimum but still allow staff to maintain a secure perimeter?
  • Does the venue's physical structure need repair? For instance, can people rip seats up from the floor and throw them?
  • What season or type of weather is associated with incidents of spectator aggression?
  • What is the stadium's policy on alcohol consumption? Can spectators bring alcohol in? What types of containers can spectators use? If the arena sells alcohol, at what price and in what size containers does it do so?

Current and Previous Responses

  • What type of security, other than traditional law enforcement, is present during stadium events?
  • When violence occurs, which workers are usually the first to respond to the incident (e.g., ushers, private security, medical personnel, police)?
  • What does a spectator have to do to generate a response from security? For example, does security tolerate verbal taunts, foul language, or obscene gestures?
  • Do police wait until a violent incident occurs before becoming proactive at an event?
  • What is the standard response to signs of fan aggression?
  • Are fans notified of potential risks and costs associated with engaging in inappropriate and violent behaviors?
  • What type of training does staff have to deal with disruptive or aggressive spectators?
  • What restrictions have been used to try and prevent spectator violence in the past? For instance, do personnel search bags before entry? Is staff asked to search for and confiscate particular illicit drugs? Have persistent troublemakers been banned from the stadium? Is the sale of alcohol limited (e.g., service stops before the end of the event, there is a one-drink limit per customer)?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area. For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the Problem-Solving Tools guide, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for PoliceProblem-Solvers.

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to spectator violence in stadiums:

  • fewer violent incidents between spectators;
  • fewer violent incidents between spectators and entertainers;
  • fewer violent incidents between spectators and stadium personnel;
  • fewer violent incidents where spectators damage the stadium;
  • reduced seriousness of injuries (e.g., fewer injuries requiring medical attention);
  • fewer complaints about spectator behavior received by security;
  • fewer complaints about spectator behavior received by other stadium staff;
  • fewer items confiscated at the stadium;
  • fewer incidents of refusing alcohol to inebriated spectators;
  • fewer spectator ejections from the stadium; and
  • improved perceptions of safety by spectators, entertainers, and stadium personnel.