Security at the Fourth of July concert and fireworks display on the Esplanade will be more intense than ever before, officials said Tuesday, promising more police visibility, video surveillance, and a ban on backpacks and other items in a response to the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.
“Some of these enhancements the public will see and some of them you won’t see,” State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben said at the Esplanade. “We are going to have more troopers on the Esplanade than ever before. We will also deploy numerous undercover troopers and federal law enforcement officers into the crowd to be alert, in an unobtrusive manner, for any suspicious activity.”
The secure perimeter for the event will be expanded to stretch along Storrow Drive from the Community Boating boathouse to Clarendon Street. People who want to watch the concert and fireworks inside that area will have to first pass through security screening gates, including metal detecting wands, between Berkeley and Clarendon streets to get a wristband. Those security checkpoints will open at 9 a.m. on the Fourth and at 4 p.m. for the rehearsal concert on July 3.
“We have a prohibited items list this year, and we are going to institute a policy on bag searches at several entry points,” Alben said.
The prohibited items list includes backpacks, coolers with wheels, glass containers, pre-mixed beverages, and liquid in containers larger than two liters. After 4 p.m. on July Fourth, only chairs and small tarps or blankets will be allowed for those entering the secured area.
“On July Fourth, we have stipulated that after 4 p.m. you won’t be able to bring in many of the items that traditionally have been brought in here,” Alben said.
The colonel said the new security measures are precautionary, and that State Police have no information on any possible threats. Video surveillance equipment at the Esplanade has been upgraded and expanded, Alben said, to allow law enforcement officers to monitor the crowds.
“Governor Patrick himself authorized the expenditure of a significant amount of money to install more cameras here at the Esplanade,” he said. “We had a number of additional cameras here last year, which we thought was very beneficial, but this is substantially beyond that.”
State Police have also established a “text-a-tip” number (67238) for guests to confidentially report suspicious activity.
Roads around the Esplanade, including Storrow and Memorial drives and the Longfellow and Massachusetts Avenue bridges, will be subject to limitations and closures starting at 6 a.m. on July 3.
The Massachusetts Avenue Bridge, which was a popular site for spectators in past years, will be closed to pedestrian and vehicular traffic at 4 p.m. on July Fourth.
For the first time, pyrotechnics will be launched from the bridge as part of the fireworks display. The Longfellow Bridge will also be closed to vehicular traffic, but the inbound side, facing the Esplanade, will be open to pedestrians.
Officials from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which operates the Esplanade, began working with other agencies to assess ways to bolster security for the Fourth of July concert and fireworks after the April 15 Marathon bombings, said John P. Murray, Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner.
“This year, almost immediately following the Boston Marathon tragedy, DCR began working with its sister agencies in public safety to review our security procedures,” he said. Guests will notice changes “not only around security, but performance times, entrance locations, and the configuration of our fencing.”
Three people were killed and 260 were injured when two bombs exploded on Boylston Street near the Marathon finish line. Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev are suspected of planting the bombs. Tamerlan was killed after a shootout with police in Watertown on April 19, and his brother was captured the next day.
The open nature of the July Fourth concert and fireworks show poses special challenges to law enforcement, Alben said. The Marathon bombings, he said, led the agency to review its security plan more closely.
“Open-air public celebrations have been an ongoing security concern around the country, certainly after 9/11,” he said.
“I think certainly the recent events here gave us cause to look at it more intensely and to implement a lot of those [new security features], but I think this is always going to be an evolving process now and for years to come.”
State Police sent troopers to New York City and London to study how officials there secure large outdoor venues, like Times Square, officials said.
Steve MacDonald of Boston 4 Productions said the fireworks this year will be detonated by Atlas PyroVision of Jaffrey, N.H., adding even more of a local flair to the traditional event.
“It is a signature event for the country and especially for Boston,” MacDonald said. “We are excited that it has such a New England flavor this year.”