Public Safety & Homeland Security

Local Police to Beef up Boston Marathon Security

The more than 3,500 police officers who will patrol this year's Boston Marathon will be more than double the number deployed last year.

by Angeljean Chiaramida, McClatchy News / March 14, 2014
Police motorcycles from all over the state line the streets prior to the start of the 116th Boston Marathon in April 2012. Flickr/Ryan Hutton/Boston University News Service

When thousands of police officers take to the streets during the Boston Marathon next month, chances are some of those working to keep the runners and spectators safe will be from local law enforcement agencies.

The more than 3,500 police officers who will patrol this year's Boston Marathon will be more than double the number deployed last year, when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260. The enhanced police presence is part of a beefed-up security plan detailed Monday by public safety officials as they prepare for the April 21 marathon.

Last year, when Boston and its surrounding suburbs were shut down as police hunted for the bombers and killers of MIT police officer Sean Collier, Rowley Sgt. David Sedgwick, Amesbury Sgt. William Scholtz and personnel from the Essex County Sheriff's Department were among area police officers who aided state and federal agencies in finding Cambridge residents Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his late brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Amesbury and Rowley, along with Georgetown, Newbury, Newburyport, Merrimac and the Essex County Sheriff's office, are part of the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Counsel, a consortium of 58 police departments and sheriffs units that provide support and supplemental services to other law enforcement agencies in the region when asked.

According to Georgetown police Chief Donald Cudmore, although he hasn't yet been told where his patrolmen will go, he expects them to be among those protecting runners and bystanders.

"I don't know if it will only be in relation to NEMLEC, but I believe we'll be involved, we just don't know where," Cudmore said. "We'll see where we'll be asked to help. Maybe it will be outside of Boston, in the town of Hopkinton, where the race starts."

Amesbury police Chief Kevin Ouellet and Rowley police Chief Robert Barker also believe that it's "very likely" their departments will again be called upon to help out, although they haven't been specifically briefed on where the deployment might be. But as part of the consortium, both men said, they're willing to do their part when called.

State Police Lt. Paul Zipper believes some troopers from Troop A's Newbury barracks will also be on duty throughout the event.

Last year, Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins sent four deputies to Watertown when NEMLEC called. This year, he's awaiting instructions as to where his personnel might help. Given the tight security and new rules for spectators, his personnel could prove useful.

Those who plan to attend marathon are strongly discouraged from bringing backpacks, rolling bags, coolers and other large items, and are instead being asked to carry personal items in clear plastic bags. Anyone who does bring a bulky bag will be subject to search, officials said during a news conference at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's bunker in Framingham on Monday.

"Searching and clearing things like backpacks is a normal function in prisons," Cousins said. "We do that type of thing everyday. I imagine we'll asked to help out at the marathon, and we might be asked to help with that kind of activity."

The new guidelines for spectators are similar to rules for runners made public several weeks ago by the Boston Athletic Association, which runs the Boston Marathon. Authorities said they sought to strike a balance between keeping the traditional feel and character of the marathon and tightening security in response to last year's deadly terror attack.

"We are confident that the overall experience of runners and spectators will not be impacted, and that all will enjoy a fun, festive and family oriented day," said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Schwartz said police are looking to spectators to be especially vigilant and report any suspicious items or activity.

Like runners, spectators are being told they cannot bring containers with more than one liter of liquid and cannot wear bulky costumes or anything that covers their faces.

Unregistered runners known as "bandits" will be prohibited this year. Officials said the move was necessary because or security concerns and because organizers are expecting 9,000 additional runners this year — bringing the total field to 36,000 — and double the typical number of spectators for a crowd of up to one million.

Police and other public safety officials from the eight cities and towns along the marathon course have been meeting for months to come up with a plan to beef up security following last year's deadly attack. Kieran Ramsey, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said the agency has "no specific intelligence indicating there is a threat to this year's marathon."

Col. Timothy Alben, commander of the state police, said police will have more than 100 additional security cameras along the route and have also met with business owners to coordinate use of their surveillance cameras, as well. He urged spectators to report anything at all suspicious to police.

"In this world, you never eliminate risk, you never bring it down to zero ... but we are working very hard at reducing that risk level and managing it to the best of our collective abilities," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

(c)2014 The Daily News of Newburyport (Newburyport, Mass.)