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Game-day arrests decrease this season

Robert Singer | Friday, November 20, 2009

The number of arrests on home football Saturdays has gone from 129 last year to approximately 30 this year after six home games.

Director of Game Day Operations Mike Seamon said Game Day initiatives have not changed the policy of Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP), but instead have led to a collaborative approach by the various groups working game days and made fans aware of the University’s expectations for them. These two factors have helped lower the number of arrests, he said.

Fan furor over alleged abuses by police officers have lead to changes in the University’s approach to game days, but Seamon said complaints of unruly fan conduct on campus have decreased.

“A lot of folks thought there was more disruptive behavior on campus than there should have been. A family came and the people around them in the parking lot or Stadium were being overly disruptive,” he said. “Someone else’s behavior was really offensive or was creating problems for the family.”

To solve the problems encountered last year, University President Fr. John Jenkins established an ad hoc committee last October to review football weekend safety and security protocol. One of the outcomes of the committee was to appoint Seamon to his current position to oversee the implementation of the recommended changes.

This year’s revamped approach, which Seamon said has received positive feedback, has focused on improving coordination among the different groups — police officers, ushers, parking attendants and hospitality ambassadors — employed to run game days. Seamon described the “team building exercise” of bringing these groups together over the summer.

“Right after Commencement, it was just a series of meetings with all these different groups on campus to discuss what [Jenkins] outlined,” he said.

Asked whether NDSP has changed its policy, Seamon said, “same number of police, same structure.”

“I think it’s just working on a more unified front that allows us to be more strategic about how we’re doing,” he said.

He said fans have improved their behavior in response to the University publicizing expectations for them.

“I would say one thing that has been a pleasant surprise for us is fans … when we stated what we expected of people, they responded,” Seamon said. “The Notre Dame faithful, the Notre Dame fan base has responded in a very positive manner. When we stated our expectations, guidelines on fan behavior and handle any complaints on fan behavior accordingly, people understand that.”

Seamon also said the results of other Game Day initiatives have been positive, pointing out enthusiastic fan reactions to the public parking option on the nine-hole Notre Dame Golf Course, the opening the Stadium tunnel to the public on Friday afternoons and the pep rally festivities at the hospitality village Irish Green.

Seamon said feedback about the new Game Day initiatives has complimented the welcoming atmosphere on campus.

“How we treat everyone, regardless of whether they are the opponent, if we can impress even our opponents, if they can even feel welcome on campus, I think that’s a good testament that we’re making some good progress.”

The new text messaging system for safety concerns has been particularly successful, Seamon said.

“Text message started last year in the NFL. We talked to the company that did it. We’ve had people text us who’ve had medical problems,” he said. “Now other schools are starting to come to us and ask us how we do this. They’re asking us about our model.”

Seamon said Gameday Operations is looking to the future.

“I want to continue to improve the communication between the administration and our fan base,” he said.