Security is being stepped up this weekend across New York as the city plays host to the NBA All-Star Game, and authorities will be on the lookout for scam artists trying to sell knock-off jersey and counterfeit memorabilia to unsuspecting sports fans.
NYPD officers along with FBI and Homeland Security agents will be out in force to help provide security for events being held near Madison Square Garden where the game is being played. Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is also hosting All-Star related events.
Intelligence officials are monitoring threat streams from overseas and inside the U.S. The FBI said there is no new specific threat to New York, but the agency's Joint Terrorism Task Force has a command post up and running all weekend as a precaution.
“It’s one team, one fight,” said FBI Assistant Director Diego Rodriguez. “We treat a special event the same way we do a crisis event; we always have our folks ready to go.”
Representatives from dozens of law enforcement agencies will be helping to keep track of security issues, Rodriguez said.
Police records from the last three All-Star games -- in Orlando, Houston and New Orleans -- show a spike in arrests during All-Star Weekend. Crimes like assault, prostitution and counterfeiting were reported blocks from the arenas in the respective host cities.
Agents with Homeland Security Investigations will join NYPD officers in searching for scam artists selling knock-off jerseys and bogus tickets.
“We will have teams out at all the locations, looking for individuals who are out there trying to take advantage of the public,” said Deputy HSI Special Agent Anthony Scandiffio. “It’s a very big problem, businesses lose over $200 million a year.”
NBA Security Chief Jerome Pickett said the league works with law enforcement to help them know how to identify counterfeit merchandise. Experts said some of the fake jerseys and other memorabilia is ordered from China and shipped into New York by criminal groups. Customs agents at the airports and seaports have been trying to keep a close eye on these shipments.
Officials say they are expecting all to go smoothly with the larger security presence being put in place as a precaution.
“People should come out and have fun,” Pickett said.