(TNS) — Authorities at all levels have planned six months in advance of April 16, when the 122nd Boston Marathon race will take place. This year commemorates the fifth anniversary of the marathon bombings that left three dead and hundreds injured, and officials say their safety methods have adapted since that devastating day.
"I'm sure everyone can remember where they were, who they were with and what they were doing when the bombs exploded," said MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green at a security briefing in Boston on Tuesday. "It was that devastating to us."
"However with the passing of time human nature has its way of minimizing events that occur," Green added. "We cannot become complacent."
Officials across local, regional and federal law enforcement spoke on Tuesday to remind the public that while there are no credible threats to the marathon, spectators must remain vigilant in large crowds. Several officials repeated the mantra, "If you see something, say something."
Marathon Monday attracts hundreds of thousands of spectators, on top of the 50,000 runners participating in the race. Police officials say between 7,500 and 8,000 public safety personnel will be situated along the race route, which spans across eight cities and towns. According to Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz, 5,000 of those personnel will be uniformed and plain-clothed officers.
Massachusetts State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin said there will also be a "significant number of undercover troopers" mixed into crowds on race day. "Certain parts of our security operation will not be seen by the public," Gilpin said.
This year security measures will also include three tethered drones — two in Hopkinton and one in Natick — which will stream live video feeds to authorities. For the public, the entire marathon route remains a no-drone zone, officials said.
Boston Police urged spectators filing into the city to be cautious of closed roads and pedestrian-walkways on race day. Parts of Huntington Avenue and Newbury Street will be closed completely to allow pedestrians to cut through. Police advised people to avoid walking down Boylston Street, and urged Red Sox fans exiting the daytime game to use public transportation and avoid congesting Kenmore Square.
Crowd control is only one piece of the puzzle. Security planning also included the assessment of global terror threats, preparing for newer forms of violence like truck attacks in Nice, France or New York City. Police will stand on roofs of buildings to keep a bird's-eye view on what's happening in the streets below. Boston Police say such measures would have appeared bizarre several years ago.
The heightened security comes at a cost: while officials had no exact number at the briefing on Tuesday, MEMA Director Schwartz said the amount that authorities collectively spend on security "continues to increase."
"We're really looking into a crystal ball, trying to predict what the next threat is," said Harold Shaw, the lead special agent of Boston's FBI Division. "We should be able to harness the lessons learned on a global scale."
Shaw said technology — social media especially — has blurred the lines between risks posed by domestic or foregin adversaries. Authorities' biggest challenge, he added, continues to be homegrown violent extremists.
"We are working around the clock to ensure that this year's race is a safe and successful one," Shaw said. "I urge all of you to remain vigilant, guarded and aware of your surroundings."
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