Babies patiently sucked on pacifiers as security officials searched their strollers. Women carrying even the tiniest of clutches were asked to zip them open for inspection. Even golden retrievers couldn’t escape the added scrutiny that came with tighter security measures at this year’s Boston Marathon.
On Newbury Street in the Back Bay, working dogs Luther and Ruthie, whose job is to comfort those traumatized by disaster, sported neon tags that read “inspected” after security officials examined the dogs’ harnesses.
“Better safe than sorry,” said Dona Martin, one of the dogs’ handlers. “I wasn’t upset.”
Officials had said at least 3,500 police officers and troopers would be on patrol along the 26.2-mile route. Additionally, military police in combat fatigues and yellow safety vests were seen guarding the line between runners and spectators on some parts of the course, as police helicopters flew overhead.
In addition to the bag and stroller checks, bomb-sniffing dogs, mostly German shepherds and Labradors, were commonplace — sniffing on Hopkinton streets crowded with runners and striding along sidewalks on Boylston Street in Boston.
Going into this year’s Marathon, authorities had said they wanted the extra security measures to be as unobtrusive as possible, so that the race could remain accessible as it’s always been. But along the course, spectators said the extra police presence was definitely felt.
In Hopkinton, where the race begins, private security officers used hand-held metal detectors and one spectator, Amy Nauman, 25, said she was checked three times.
“Every time you went through a corral, you were checked again,” Nauman said. “I expected one or two, but nothing like this. This is crazy.”
In Ashland, local police, state troopers, and members of the National Guard broke up a party of 500 Framingham State University students, even though officials acknowledged they were “mostly well-behaved.”
Ashland Police Chief Craig Davis said he wanted to disperse the students to keep the crowds from becoming unruly.
Bandits — or unauthorized runners — were warned that they could be removed, and in Natick, that’s exactly what happened, when a man wearing jeans jumped into the road. A Natick police officer promptly pulled him from the course.
Along the course in Natick, local and state police, hazmat teams, and military police traveled in pairs or groups, and were hard to miss.
In Boston, along the last 2 miles, private security officers contracted by race organizers assisted Boston Police in checking bags. One officer grew concerned about a pile of coats on Boylston and asked a spectator to remove each coat one by one to make sure there was nothing beneath them.
Christian Carranza, a 30-year-old Homeland Security agent visiting from San Diego, wanted to watch his friend finish the Marathon before flying home. But he had to check out of his hotel early, which meant hauling an enormous black bag around the city.
“I was definitely getting weird looks,” he said. “I went to a Dunkin’ Donuts and a guy screamed ‘No backpacks!’ at me.”
By noon, police had closed off access to Boylston Street, an action they had warned they would take if the street became too congested. Some people trying to get to Boylston from Newbury Street cursed under their breath.
But Patricia Eunice, who had been trying to get to Boylston with her 5-year-old grandson Wes, said she understood.
“You got to do what you got to do,” she said.
There were numerous security checkpoints from Kenmore Square to the finish line; and through the afternoon, every time crowds got heavy, the checkpoints on the side streets between Newbury and Boylston would close, then reopen when the crowds had thinned.
Transit police turned back a steady stream of people at the Kenmore Square MBTA station around 3:30 p.m., telling them that the station was closed because there were too many people already down below. Those trying to use the tunnel to get to the other side of Commonwealth Avenue — on the Fenway Park side — were diverted back to Massachusetts Avenue
“Obviously, I apologize if people couldn’t get to certain areas that they hoped to get to, but that was our plan,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans. “Public safety comes first, unfortunately.”
Evans said the race was uneventful from a public safety standpoint, and that spectators were cooperative.
“They really made our jobs easier,” Evans said.
In Boston just one person was arrested, charged with disorderly conduct. State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said police responded to a number of reports of suspicious packages or unattended bags along the route — none of which turned out to be a threat, he said.
“I don’t think we could have had a better outcome,” Alben said.
On Boylston Street, Jen Lacroix watched the race with her 20-month-old daughter, Helen, near where she and her husband had been standing last year when the bombs went off.
They returned this year, hoping to put the horror behind them.
But Lacroix said she was struggling to feel comfortable with the extra security.
“My stomach is in knots,” she said. “I don’t think anything is going to happen, but it’s what the security represents. I don’t like that. I don’t like that we have to do that.”
Evans said he was hopeful that security measures can be adjusted for next year’s Marathon, but he cautioned that the increased law enforcement presence could become status quo for other large-scale events in the city.
“Since April 15 we’ve had to take a lot more precautions,” Evans said.
More from the 2014 Boston Marathon — Cullen: Just like the days we used to know | Gasper: Boston reclaims its Marathon | Photos: Marathon scenes | The ‘Scream Tunnel’ and Heartbreak Hill | The elite runners | Boylston Street | Videos from the Marathon | Full coverage