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ABC 7 at 7: High school football security a priority for Manatee, Sarasota schools

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - In the wake of two shootings in two weeks following high school football games in other parts of the sunshine state, Sarasota and Manatee counties are detailing their security efforts.

The last shooting at a Suncoast football game happened back in 2009. A Bayshore High School cheerleader, Jazmine Thompson, was shot and killed following a game at Southeast High School.

That was nine years ago, but two recent shootings following high school football games in Jacksonville and Palm Beach has game day security on many fans minds as they walk through the gates on Friday nights.

In Manatee County, athletic director Jason Montgomery leads safety efforts for the county's home games.

"We made a couple of adjustments going into this year," Montgomery described. "One of the biggest ones that you'll see county wide is we are no longer allowing backpacks or any kind of bags in. For women, you'll only be allowed a clutch."

The district is also focused this year on preventing loitering.

"We're just putting a greater emphasis on making sure we have a greater presence in the parking lot before and after games, making sure people aren't hanging around the perimeter of our facilities, and getting them in and out as clean and quickly as we can," Montgomery said.

He works closely with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, which provides school resource deputies for every home game.

"We bring in roughly four to six deputies for each school," communications officer Dave Bristow said. "That can vary in fact if maybe they've heard something where we get some intelligence information where something may be going down. Then you'd see more deputies there."

The sheriff's office takes Montgomery's recommendation on how many deputies should be at each game. Both entities also relying on the community for help in their safety efforts.

"If you see something, you need to say something," Bristow reminds spectators.

The district has the ability to wand people when they come in, but not everyone is wanded at every game.

Just a few miles south in Sarasota County, football game security is being run by the new district police force with help from municipal law enforcement.

"We will have remote view cameras that we trailer out on poles to event and they'll be strategically places so at our ECC or command center essentially," Chief Paul Grohowski said. "We will have extra people there to monitor not just the fixed cameras at the facilities, but the portable cameras we bring out to the event to watch what's going on in the parking lot, make sure there's not mischief, or tailgating or illegal drinking before the event and monitor who is coming and going throughout the event."

At least two school officers will be at every game along with officers from the local municipalities as they partner to tackle security. Once the police force is fully staffed, the district will take over security all together.

The department doesn't want to give away its Intel, but there is a possibility that visitors will be wanded when they enter the games.

Like in Manatee County, spectators aren't allowed to bring bags.

For rivalry games, security is beefed up. That means more officers wanding more spectators.

Each game is treated a little differently security wise.