Boston waits to see whether security hampers marathon festivity

Law enforcement presence will be felt at Monday's race



BOSTON — There’s a tense excitement running through this city as it prepares for the 118th Boston Marathon, a uniquely Bostonian event, held on Patriots’ Day, the third Monday of April, which celebrates the first battles of the Revolutionary War.

Residents are waiting to see how much of the traditional carefree spirit of Marathon Monday will remain after officials implement security measures to make the 26.2-mile route “the safest place on the planet,” a goal the long-term race director outlined last week.

The numbers are impressive: There will be about 4,000 uniformed and plainclothes police officers and National Guard soldiers along the course, more than double the number from last year.

Law enforcement officers will be watching live video feeds from 100 cameras along the route — 25 erected just for the race — and from at least one helicopter.

There will be nearly 100 K-9 units, double the number from last year; and 260 people gathered in the multi-agency coordination center, three times the number from last year, to monitor security during the race.

“It’s sort of what we have been doing, but on steroids, so to speak,” said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

There will be 36,000 runners this year, an increase of about 9,000 from last year, and there could be as many as 1 million spectators.

The agency maintains that spectators won’t notice the extra security precautions too much. An idea to have a drone in the sky above the event was nixed, Judge said. People are urged not to bring backpacks or large bags to the event, but if they do, they will merely be searched and allowed on their way — something that could help make others standing near them more relaxed, knowing that they’ve been vetted, he said.

“We agreed that a primary goal is to preserve the traditional feel and character of the Boston Marathon,” said Kurt Schwartz, director of the emergency agency, at a news conference last month. “Our safety and security plan accomplishes this goal.”

The security plan is the product of seven months of preparation, Schwartz said. During that time, public safety officials traveled to other cities to observe their security procedures for large events, and consulted with other government agencies for best practices.

Medical professionals have increased their staffing levels in case anything happens along the route. The city will add 13 more ambulances, in addition to the 24 stationed along the course, as well as 140 emergency medical services workers who will line the route on bicycles and on foot. The Boston Public Health Commission will also have a medical station on Boston Common with 30 beds at the ready.