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Enhanced Security Planned For Boston Marathon
03/17/2014  

You'll see lots of security at the Boston Marathon next month. Despite some barricades and lots of extra cameras and police officers, Massachusetts public safety officials insist this year's marathon will be a festive event. Deborah Becker reports on some of the changes you can expect.

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A year after tragedy rocked one of the signature events of Boston, there will be thousands of people working on security for this year's race. Although communication among law enforcement agencies was cited after last year's bombings, the FBI says its communication policies are - and always have been - sound.

FBI Special Agent Kiernan Ramsey says there are no current threats against this year's marathon. "The communication here has been second to none to ensure that all of us are talking about the possibility of any threat coming up," Ramsey says. "But at this point we don't have one, nor do we anticipate one."

For the past eight months, Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben says local state and federal public safety officials have been planning security for the 36,000 runners and estimated one million spectators at this year's Boston marathon. Security planners have traveled to other cities, even other countries, to learn from others who deal with security and large crowds.

"You know, in this world you never eliminate risk, you never bring it down to zero. There are certain risks in crossing the street every day or going to work or going to school," Alben says. "But we are working very hard at reducing that risk level."

Among the security steps being implemented this year is to ask people not to bring back packs or other large items. Here's Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz:

"We are urging spectators along all 26.2 miles to carry personal items in clear plastic bags, and we are strongly urging them not to carry back packs."

Back packs are believed to be the way pressure cooker bombs made it to the marathon finish line last year, allegedly left there by Tamerlan and Dhokhar Tsarnaev - bombs that killed three people and injured more than 200 others. Schwartz says if people do bring large items like back packs or coolers, they will likely be searched at security checkpoints.

He also says 3,500 additional uniformed police officers will be along the marathon route - about double the number of officers as last year. In addition, there will be plain clothes officers, private security contractors, bomb sniffing dogs and increased video surveillance.

But Schwartz says that should not affect the atmosphere of the race. "We are confident that the overall experience of runners and spectators will not be impacted and that all will enjoy a fun, festive, family-oriented day," he says.

Runners will also face increased security. They too cannot bring back packs. No unauthorized runners are allowed anywhere on the course, and those entering crowded areas, such as the grandstand, will have to have an official race bib and will be subject to a security search.

Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, says race organizers are following law enforcement's lead.

"What we do is put on races, and public safety officials prescribe or strongly recommend those guidelines," Grilk says. "That said, we don't disagree at all. We want the right balance of security, and celebration and fun, and that's exactly what these public safety officials are trying to maintain."

Officials expect the marathon route will be crowded with 9,000 more runners than last year. And they say this year's race will be as much about resilience as it is about running.



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