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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)
Scott J. Croteau, TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

The only thing there isn't more of is miles.

This year's Boston Marathon will see more runners, most likely more spectators and, based on last year's horrific events, more security.

State, federal and local authorities have been meeting for months preparing for the Boston Marathon one year after two brothers allegedly set off bombs at the finish line, killing three and injuring hundreds.

Providing security for a major event inside a closed or controlled area, such as a stadium or park, can be difficult enough for law enforcement. Doing it over 26.2 miles through eight cities and towns is an enormous task.

"It is hard to plan for something like this because you don't know how they (potential threats) are coming at you and it is such a large venue," said retired state police Col. Thomas J. Foley, former superintendent of the state police. "It is hard to secure."

Myriad security measures and restrictions have been put in place for this year's marathon. People have been asked to carry items in clear plastic bags. Spectators are also told not to bring heavy backpacks and should expect to go through screening areas if they do.

There are 36,000 runners expected this year, an increase of 9,000. Law enforcement will be increased too, with an expected 3,500 police officers along the route. That number is what has been publicly disclosed and it is a certainty there will be many more undercover officers.

Mr. Foley took over as head of the state police in the fall of 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The state's next major event was the Boston Marathon the following April.

"We were gathering all these resources together and trying to anticipate the problem areas and where to put the best resources," he said. "We had been providing security for that event for many years and a lot of us worked it prior to 9-11. The problem with it was how to maintain security for a 26.2-mile route.

"You can provide security to a degree, but the reality is you are limited," he said.

Technology and the availability of different resources have increased since Sept. 11, 2001. Cooperation between state and local law enforcement, FBI and other agencies is paramount, Mr. Foley said.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency in Framingham will host the Public Safety Multi-Agency Coordination Center during the Boston Marathon. More than 250 individuals, representing more than 60 local, regional, state, federal, private and volunteer agencies and organizations will report to the center, which is coordinating the public safety operations.

Since the Boston Marathon bombings, law enforcement agencies across the state and country have used bomb detection dogs and more cameras at events. They've been tapping local businesses, asking for access to surveillance footage if needed.

Video surveillance footage from a business on Boylston Street in Boston caught footage of the two marathon bombing suspects, identified later as brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Richard DesLauriers, former special agent-in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said those cameras broke the case. The disturbing videos were viewed over and over by the Assumption College graduate, who retired from his FBI career last July.

Cameras were used at events after the marathon bombings, the 54-year-old said.

"I don't think you can have enough security at any kind of event right now," Mr. DesLauriers said.

Worcester police received federal funding to obtain a bomb dog and used dogs from other agencies at the recent Worcester County St. Patrick's Parade. The department had a camera on a radio tower and tapped into the Worcester Housing Authority's cameras during the event.

Worcester police officials analyzed their parade security and found they wanted more dogs at the event, Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said. They also discussed cutting the route into sectors. Cooperation with different law enforcement agencies helped Worcester police receive bomb dogs at the parade.

The camera allowed officers to see potential problems and move quickly without disturbing the peace of the spectators, the chief said. Keeping events from being a "police state" is something many law enforcement officials stressed as important.

The Pasadena, Calif., Police Department reviewed the Boston Marathon bombings in anticipation of the 700,000 to 1 million spectators who attended the 125th Tournament of Roses Parade and 100th Rose Bowl football game Jan. 1.

"The similarities right away that struck us were both venues were open to the public where there wasn't a lot of vetting going on," said Pasadena Police Lt. Randell Taylor, the official in charge of the Event Planning Office.

His department brought in bomb dogs and used cameras, some from local businesses. Between 1,300 to 1,500 law enforcement officers patrolled the 5 ½-mile route.

While areas around the Tournament of Roses Parade route had security measures, some others did not. People could walk up with coolers or other large items close to the route, Lt. Taylor said.

The department embraced the "See Something, Say Something" campaign, something discussed last month at a Boston Marathon security press conference inside the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker.

"Most of the security we did was outreach and education," Lt. Taylor said. "Telling people to be vigilant was key and having people aware of their surroundings and understand we are no longer in a time where you can sit down next to something that is unaccompanied and assume it belongs to someone."

Lt. Taylor said having another 800,000 civilians acting as the eyes and ears of law enforcement helps tremendously. The campaign is simple: If anything looks odd, tell law enforcement.

Contact Scott J. Croteau at scott.croteau@telegram.com Follow him on Twitter @ScottCroteauTG

 

State Police Trooper Dustin Fitch speaks about race-day safety.T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN

 

April 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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