Athens-Clarke police officials have a security plan in place for downtown Athens late Monday and early Tuesday should celebrations get rowdy in the wake of a potential Georgia victory in the National Championship game.
“We fully expect there to be a lot more people downtown,” Athens-Clarke County police spokesman Epifanio Rodriguez said. “We have a security plan to make sure everyone is safe.”
One city that knows about national championship celebrations is Chapel Hill, N.C., where the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team has won seven national championships including recent trophies in 2009 and 2017. Last year an estimated 50,000 revelers poured onto Franklin Street, which is Chapel Hill’s main thoroughfare.
Television station WNCN reported that seven people were injured, including four who were burned in multiple bonfires set even though officials had warned fans not to set bonfires.
Chapel Hill police are accustomed to dealing with large gatherings for special events on Franklin Street, Chapel Hill Police Communications Specialist Ran Northam said. But a national championship celebration is unique.
“National championship celebrations are quite different, because when the clock strikes zero everybody shows up at once. You don’t have a steady flow of people coming in over time,” he said. “You’ve got thousands of people showing up on the streets to celebrate at one time. … You have to sit back and watch, and hope people remain safe, and decide when do you jump in and try to address anything that looks like a safety concern.”
The Chapel Hill police prepare in advance of any such sporting event celebrations, he said.
“We work closely with our downtown businesses to make sure alcohol stays inside the business and underage laws are being followed. We try to promote as much public safety as possible,” he said.
Officials even patrol the town prior to the game looking for flammable or combustible items, including making sure all solid waste and recycling bins are empty, he said.
“Really it’s about safety,” Northam said. “It’s not about locking somebody up.”
Victory can bring out the boisterous side of people, but what if the home team loses.
“It’s a pretty quiet night,” the officer said.