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Detroit braces for massive security presence during NFL draft weekend: What you need to know

Lions Football cheerleaders and a drumline rally a crowd of people in Hart Plaza in Detroit.
Charles Falsetti
Visit Detroit
A crowd of people gather in Hart Plaza in Detroit in April 2022 for the announcement of the location of the 2024 NFL draft.

Hundreds of sworn officers across multiple law enforcement agencies — along with private security — will descend on downtown Detroit for NFL draft weekend later this month. With the event expected to draw about 400,000 people to Hart Plaza and Campus Martius Park, how will the city manage crowds this size and mitigate safety concerns?

In the private sector, Bedrock Detroit, the NFL and the economic development nonprofit Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) are contracting security firms. This may raise alarms for Detroiters in light of lawsuits against private security guards at the Renaissance Center.

Detroit Police Department Commander Matthew Fulgenzi emphasized that private security will not be armed, an assurance echoed by the NFL and the DDP. Instead, guards are instructed to patrol for safety concerns and call on officers if situations escalate. However, there is some discrepancy in conversations with officials.

“Do they (private security personnel) have extra law enforcement authority? The answer’s absolutely not,” Fulgenzi said.

But NFL spokesperson Tim Schlittner said private security guards can detain people.

“Anyone that is engaging in threatening or violent behavior that could result in injury can be temporarily detained until police arrive,” Schlittner said, declining to specify how security could detain people.

Fulgenzi said private security guards should not be detaining anyone and should be reaching out to police. But he added private security workers do have “citizen’s arrest” rights available to them. The rules for making a citizen’s arrest — which apply to those security workers, just like any other citizen — require seeing a felony being committed, having knowledge that a felony was committed by that person or being summoned by a peace officer to assist in an arrest.

“Security and just the overall safety and enjoyment of anyone coming into the city, whether it’s for a large event or just their day-to-day activities, is always top of mind,” said Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. “It is an increased level of focus and vigilance around large events just because of the number of people.”

This isn’t the first time private security guards have assisted in crowd and safety control. DDP has hired additional security during other events that typically draw large crowds, like the Detroit Grand Prix and the Ford Fireworks.

Larson said private security personnel are trained to de-escalate and to respond to mental health situations. They’re also able to help if someone needs directions or has questions about the city. These security guards have radios to contact Detroit police.

“They are all uniformed,” Larson said, emphasizing that the security guards should be easily identifiable.

The NFL draft is taking place in the downtown area from April 25-27.

Thanks to our partners at Outlier Media for help with this story.

Briana Rice is Michigan Public's criminal justice reporter. She's focused on what Detroiters need to feel safe and whether they're getting it.