Ecuador installs CCTV and increases police patrols to reduce violence at soccer games

Ecuador installs CCTV and increases police patrols to reduce violence at soccer games

By Dialogo
March 23, 2014

Ecuadorean authorities recently launched a multi-pronged initiative to improve security at soccer games.

The Ecuadorian National Police, along with the Ministries of Interior and Sports, are cooperating to instally closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in soccer stadiums to allow security forces to monitor spectators and respond quickly to fights among fans. As they are installing the CCTV cameras, authorities are also eliminating wired fences which separated spectators from the players on the field in many soccer stadiums.

These measures are particularly timely since Ecuador is hosting several games in the Copa Libertadores competition, in which teams from the Americas compete.

A ‘historic day’

In January 2014, authorities took down the wired fence that separated spectators from the playing field at Olympic Stadium Atahualpa, in Quito. Taking down the wired fence was an important symbolic step, said Luis Chiriboga, president of the Ecuadorean Soccer Federation.

“This is a historic day for the Ecuadorean soccer,” said Luis Chiriboga, President of the Ecuadorean Soccer Federation, to the press. “We, alongside the Ministries of Sports and Interior, are in a frontal fight against violence.”

While Chiriboga appealed to soccer fans to behave peacefully, he also said there would be harsher penalties for people who behave violently at stadiums.

“According to the gravity of the act, it could lead to jail time,” Chiriboga said. “Once the individual is released from jail, he would not be permitted to go a stadium for a period of time equal to his sentence. Lastly, once these sanctions conclude, he will have to present himself at a police station and hour before and an hour after a game.”

Violence among fans at soccer games has worsened throughout the country in recent years.

In early March 2014, a fan named César Andrés Mayorga Gazola, 23, died after sustaining serious injuries during a soccer game in Guayas province. The game was between Club Sport Emelec and Manta Futbol Club, according to published reports. Four men allegedly beat Mayorga with rocks, according to published reports. National Police agents captured the four suspects and are continuing to investigate the incident, authorities said.

Protecting the rights of fans

Authorities should protect the rights of soccer fans while they seek ways to improve security, said Rafael Martínez. a columnist who writes often about security issues for El Vocero Nacional

“The need for these measures is great, but we have to be mindful of people’s rights as well,” ael Martínez said. “It is important that the various ministries work closely with experts from the judiciary and others to ensure we do not violate laws or rights in our zeal to secure the games and the attendees.”

Interior Minister José Serrano, visited Guayaquil on March 11, a few days after the death of Mayorga. Serrano expressed his condolences to the Mayorga family and declared his solidarity with soccer fans throughout the country.

“The attackers of Mayorga are people without scruples pretending to be fans,” Serrano said. “It is a pity they have such an irresponsible attitude that damages their own teams. We are not going to allow this violence to continue.”

The Sports Ministry has launched a public awareness campaign to reduce the violence in all sporting events. This includes the workshops “Without violence, I do go to the stadium.” Part of the initiative includes working with the representatives of the clubs and of their fans, and to register the fans to behave better when they are at games.

Martinez supports the public awareness campaign. “Indeed, this situation calls for long term educational and awareness campaigns, because some of these are bad habits that have been part of our culture for too long,” he said.

Wired fence is removed

As workers took down the wired fence of the Atahualpa Stadium in Quito, National Police commanders informed the public that officers would provide security inside and outside sports stadiums and arenas.

Police will have “zero tolerance” for violence, said Gen. Lino Proaño Daza, National Police commander of the metropolitan district of Quito.

The Ministry of the Interior is installing CCTV at all soccer stadiums in the country, officials said. In addition to CCTV, police are putting in place other security measures, such as deploying plainclothes agents among the fans of various teams; filming fans who act in a boisterous manner; and creating a registry of fans who cause violence. If police determine that certain fans are known to cause violence, those fans will be prohibited from attending future games.

Police in Quito are developing a database listing the names of violent fans. This database will be cross-checked with police in other cities.

Officials at some stadiums will also restrict the sale of beer to ten minutes before the game and during halftime, and will prohibit anyone who smells of alcohol from entering the venue. Many fights at sporting events are initiated by inebriated fans.

Swift justice

Authorities are working to deliver swift justice to fans who misbehave at soccer games.

For instance, Justice Department prosecutors recently joined police at the National Soccer Championship. If police catch fans engaging in violence, prosecutors could quickly initiate criminal charges, authorities said.

“We requested that a prosecutor attend all the games so that he can act immediately,” said Gen. Proaño. “We are not going to tolerate any violence of any kind and we support the campaign of the Ministry of Interior.”