Strong police presence for final game
LOS ANGELES -- Police will deploy hundreds of officers at Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics to prevent the kind of unrest that broke out after the Lakers won last year's championship.
Police chief Charlie Beck issued a stern warning Wednesday to anyone thinking of spoiling a potential celebration should the Lakers seize their 16th victory.
"If you vandalize, if you graffiti, if you assault somebody in conjunction with one of these [celebrations], I take it personally," Beck said Wednesday. "By those actions, you defame the reputation of the city we all love."
Beck said he doesn't expect problems, and a strong police presence should deter anyone from causing trouble. Perimeters will be set around the Staples Center on Thursday to keep out people without tickets to the game, and tactical units will stick around afterward to dissuade fans from congregating outside the arena, he said.
Los Angeles County sheriff Lee Baca said he has notified hundreds of deputies to be on hand in case the police department needs backup.
In 2000, after the Lakers won their first NBA title in 12 years, fans rioted outside the Staples Center, destroying two police cars and leaving more than 70 other vehicles damaged.
Last year, the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in Florida, but that didn't stop fans from pouring into downtown. Some set fires, threw rocks and bottles, looted several stores and vandalized public property.
Beck said police were deployed "too sparingly" because it was an away game. He vowed to have "four or five times" as many officers Thursday compared to last year.
To warn against a repeat of the unrest, authorities on Wednesday arrested 31 members of a tagging crew suspected of vandalizing a passenger bus and light rail train that night. The arrests followed a yearlong investigation looking into the postvictory violence that was captured on news footage.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said he hopes the arrest will send a message that authorities will aggressively go after those who break the law after the game.
"We're not going to sit idly by if people think they're going to ruin the mood of a celebration," he said. "It is a sad testament that you have to get up here and say to somebody, 'Come on, don't ruin a great day.'"
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press