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ATLANTA, Georgia - Massive crowds will descend on Atlanta for Monday night's national championship game between Alabama and Georgia, and still, officials say the stadium will be one of the safest places in the country come Monday night.
Already Mercedes-Benz Stadium shows signs of the intensive security operation underway, with visibly increased law enforcement presence, many of them dressed in tactical gear.
But Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on Friday, “Our message to the public is simple. Enjoy the game. Enjoy the city, and let us handle the details."
More than 100,000 fans are expected in Atlanta for the game, and many expect President Donald Trump will attend as well. That poses obvious security challenges, but law enforcement had plenty of time to prepare for the event.
Mike Brooks is a former detective of the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Washington, D.C. He says law enforcement will have prepared the entire year for this game.
Besides, he says, “I was speaking to some of my former FBI colleagues that are involved in the planning of this particular event, and they tell me that there is no specific threat to this event.”
The FBI in Atlanta's Special Agent in Charge David J. LeValley also confirmed there are no specific threats for the event in a statement, though he notes, "We are actively assessing intelligence and working closely with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners should there be any potential threat to public safety."
In part, the confidence in the security surrounding the game comes from intensive checkpointing that allows law enforcement a degree of certainty for everyone coming and going. Of course, that takes a lot of interfacing with the public.
Brooks says, “If you’re stopped by law enforcement for whatever reason, just cooperate with them and do what they say.”
And as always, law enforcement appreciates the public's help too. Brooks adds, “If you see something that seems suspicious, let somebody know about it.”
Brooks points out the National Championship Game is the second highest level of security the Department of Homeland Security can declare, noting, “Security was heightened even before the President said he was coming.”
Still, the president does add extra layers to the event. For example, the motorcade will significantly impact traffic flow, so officials ask you to use the MARTA to get to the game. Brooks also says the Secret Service may do additional checkpointing, so plan extra time to get to your seats.
But at the end of the day, Brooks says, “The safest place to be this weekend in the United States is here in Atlanta. And especially here at the championship game.”