NATIONAL NEWS

US Homeland chief joins officials in Vegas declaring Super Bowl a ‘no drone zone’

Feb 7, 2024, 7:28 PM | Updated: 7:31 pm

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to a news conference about security for NFL'...

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas arrives to a news conference about security for NFL's Super Bowl 58 football game, in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Las Vegas (AP) — While police were pursuing and apprehending a man who climbed a Las Vegas Strip landmark, local, federal and NFL officials met with the media on Wednesday to outline hardened security measures and declare the Super Bowl a “no drone zone.”

League, FBI and Secret Service officials and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said there have not been any “specific or credible” threats to Sunday’s championship game at Allegiant Stadium. But they said they were looking for them.

Mayorkas, in his first public appearance since the U.S. House of Representatives failed in a vote on Tuesday to impeach him, cut short a question about that and dismissed as “baseless” the allegations that led Republicans in Congress to try to force him from the Biden Administration cabinet. They include claims that Mayorkas hasn’t properly enforced immigration laws to secure the U.S. border with Mexico and accusations that he lied in telling Congress that the border is secure.

“I’m focused on the work,” Mayorkas said, “that’s what brings me to Las Vegas today.”

The Homeland Secretary shared the reason for a seven-minute timeout that paused the AFC championship game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs on Jan 28. He said an unmanned drone aircraft had been detected over Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. Authorities later reported they followed the aircraft and arrested a Pennsylvania man on felony charges.

“Please leave your drones, umbrellas, selfie sticks and weapons of any kind at home,” NFL Chief Security Officer Cathy Lanier told the media on Wednesday. “Super Bowl is a no-drone zone.”

Karon Ransom, U.S. Secret Service agent in charge in Las Vegas, put the number of federal law enforcement agents in Las Vegas for the Super Bowl and related events at 750. She termed the effort a “whole of government approach.”

Spencer Evans, special agent in charge of the FBI Las Vegas office, said his agency was “monitoring and sharing” with other agencies “and appropriate private-sector partners” what he called “every scrap of information that indicates a potential threat” from “criminal actors or a hostile nation-state.”

“This includes threat intelligence gleaned from social media or open source materials, our own databases and our U.S. intelligence community,” Evans said.

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill issued a familiar call for people who see something to say something and noted that Las Vegas has hosted a series of recent headline-grabbing events: the Formula One Las Vegas Grand Prix in November; a University of Nevada, Las Vegas shooting in December; New Year’s Eve fireworks that drew hundreds of thousands of revelers to the Las Vegas Strip.

McMahill, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, also somberly referred to lessons learned from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, when a gunman opened fire in October 2017 from windows of a high-rise casino hotel and killed 58 people at an outdoor concert crowd of 20,000 on the Strip. Several other deaths have since been attributed to wounds received that night.

At least 65,000 people are expected at Allegiant Stadium for the Super Bowl, and Las Vegas tourism officials estimate the number of hotel guests and visitors in the area will top 330,000.

“Anything suspicious, report it,” McMahill said. “Let us do the leg work to determine if the threat is real.”

The sheriff added that while he was at Wednesday’s media event, he was notified that officers were pursuing a man who had climbed to the top of the Las Vegas Sphere.

“We know that people are going to test us,” McMahill said from the podium. “We know people are going to try things. We know these things are going to happen. We’re going to deal with them as they come up and make sure we have the safest Super Bowl we’ve ever had.”

The media briefing followed another security-themed event Monday when federal, state and local officials at Harry Reid International Airport said they were taking steps to crimp counterfeiting, ground drones and curb human trafficking during Super Bowl week.

Displaying a table piled high with fake sports memorabilia including jerseys, T-shirts, caps and a silver replica of the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl trophy, officials said investigators seized nearly $1 million worth of counterfeit merchandise over the weekend.

They said Customs and Border Enforcement helicopters would enforce air space restrictions, using drone takeover signals and jammers if necessary, and Transportation Security Administration agents had been trained to spot human trafficking.

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US Homeland chief joins officials in Vegas declaring Super Bowl a ‘no drone zone’