With the Boston Marathon a week and a half away, Boston police and city officials are finalizing plans to secure the last 2 miles of the race, where huge crowds are expected to gather to cheer runners competing a year after the bombings.
Police will stand sentry at 40 to 50 security checkpoints along Boylston Street from Massachusetts Avenue to the finish line. The city’s Emergency Medical Services is expected to roll out larger medical tents and more beds than last year, in anticipation of one of the biggest fields of runners in Marathon history. Several streets in the Back Bay will be closed to traffic in an effort to spread the expected crush of spectators to nearby thoroughfares and make it easier for police to monitor crowds.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Police Commissioner William Evans will discuss plans for the April 21 Marathon at a press conference Saturday afternoon at City Hall Plaza. The city holds that press conference every year before the race, but the memory of the bombings on April 15 last year has dramatically heightened the focus and interest in securing the event.
“They want to make it an event where everyone can still enjoy the day, but just make sure that we make it as safe as possible,” said Nicholas Martin, spokesman for the Boston Public Health Commission.
Officials have said that additional temporary surveillance cameras will be installed along the 26.2-mile route that begins in Hopkinton and winds through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline before ending in front of the Boston Public Library in Copley Square.
Several police and state agencies, including Boston and State Police, have agreed to provide live footage from their public cameras so they can be integrated into one system so multiple agencies can monitor the crowds at the same time, said Randy Clarke, senior director of security and emergency management at the MBTA. The feeds will include images from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which has a large network of cameras in its train stations and buses. Law enforcement officials began conceiving of the idea to combine the feeds three years ago, but last year’s attacks convinced them to go ahead with the plans.
“It changes the whole dynamic so if an incident does happen, everyone has the same awareness of what’s going on,” Clarke said. “If they have a tactical issue or question, then they can all be looking at the same thing.”
Spectators have been told not to bring backpacks or bulky bags with them near the course. In Boston, police have said people trying to get on Boylston Street with such items will have them searched.
The checkpoints will be more like “observation points,” said Sergeant Michael McCarthy, Boston police spokesman. Spectators will not have to pass through a metal detector or be scanned with a security wand, he said.
Officers will stand along Boylston Street where metal gates will be set up at the side streets that intersect with Boylston. Spectators who bring nothing or tote their belongings in clear, plastic bags should be able to get to Boylston Street without being stopped.
But if crowds on Boylston get too thick, police could start turning people away toward Newbury Street or Huntington Avenue. Newbury Street will be closed to traffic to make room for pedestrians who will spill over from Boylston. The north side of Huntington Avenue will be closed to make room for spectators.
There will be 380 cots set up in medical tents near the finish line, dozens more than last year. A bus that has been outfitted to function as an ambulance, complete with 30 cots, will be set up near Boston Common, Martin said. There will be 24 ambulances assigned to cover the city and 13 city ambulances along the route, he said. About 140 EMS personnel are expect to work that day, the same number as last year.
The extra cots are meant to prepare for the larger field of runners with 36,000 people registered to run the race, 9,000 more than usual and the second largest field in race history. Only the Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 drew a greater number, with more than 38,000 people signing up.
The city is “preparing for potential runner injuries,” Martin said. “Obviously they’re ready to switch in a moment’s notice if anything were to happen.”
On April 21, the day of the race, the city’s Health Commission also plans to have clinicians available for free counseling at Our Lady of Victories Catholic Church near Copley Square, to help runners or spectators overcome by the emotion of the first Marathon after the bombings.
The city has also been providing counselors at the Boston Public Library in Copley every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The free sessions will continue through April 29.
The city offered a similar program last year. In the week and a half after the attacks, clinicians logged 600 hours of counseling, Martin said.
“I don’t think we’ll see that drastic [a number] this year,” he said. “But as the anniversary approaches . . . we want to make sure the resources are available for anyone who might need support.”
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