World Series, President Obama visit pose challenge
Law enforcement from 40 communities expected to help ensure Boston is safe
A clinching World Series game at Fenway Park would be a security headache under any circumstances. Add in a visit from President Obama on the eve of Halloween and Boston police are concerned they will have an extraordinary time keeping traffic and revelers under control.
“The World Series, a visit from the president, and Halloween all at the same time. You can’t make this stuff up,” said Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis, whose last day leading the department is Friday.
Among his final tasks will be to oversee the deployment of thousands of police officers across the city Wednesday afternoon, when Obama arrives at Faneuil Hall to defend his health care overhaul.
By the time Obama leaves for a fund-raising event in Weston, police officers will have to take their places around Fenway, Kenmore Square, and other parts of the city known to attract sports fans as the Red Sox take on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6. If the Red Sox win, police would have to contend with masses of celebrants who would flood the streets.
If the Cardinals force a Game 7, police would have to come out again on Halloween, an already busy night in Boston, when children are out trick-or-treating and costumed adults head to bars and parties.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Davis said. “Our personnel are usually strapped on Halloween night. It’s a busy night for us. So to try to do both events is complicated.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino met Tuesday afternoon with his Cabinet heads to put the final touches on a public safety plan that will include the closures of dozens of city streets, where cars will be forbidden from parking after 4 p.m. All garages around Fenway and Kenmore Square are under instructions to not allow anyone to exit after the seventh inning. Drivers will not be able to move their cars until police have deemed that the streets are cleared of celebrating fans.
“The city is ready,” Menino said. “It should be a lot of fun.”
He encouraged businesses to tell employees to leave work an hour early, preferably by 4 p.m.
Commuters and fans alike should use the MBTA to get in and out of the city, said transportation officials.
“The message is consistent, it’s simple, it’s clear,” said city Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin. “If you’re coming into the city of Boston, we still encourage you to take public transportation. There is a lot happening in downtown Boston.”
Buses and trains are expected to keep their regular schedule but will maintain service running if the Red Sox game goes past 1 a.m., said Joseph O’Connor, superintendent in chief of the transit police.
Menino said the president informed him that he hopes to leave the city by 7 p.m., but warned that the planned event could run long.
“We informed the White House that we have a baseball game coming up,” Menino joked.
Police are preparing for the possibility that Obama, a baseball fan, might want to make an appearance at Fenway Park, a law enforcement official briefed on security plans said.
“We hope he doesn’t,” the official said. “It makes [the game] more of a logistical nightmare.”
As fans file into the park, police will have a significant number of bomb-sniffing dogs and officers who specialize in detecting and detonating explosives on the streets.
State Police and police agencies from about 40 cities and towns will have troopers and officers on the streets to augment the city’s numbers. MBTA and State Police will also add bomb-sniffing canines.
State Police will provide a helicopter equipped with a camera that will zoom in on crowds and feed images in real time to police on the ground.
Undercover officers will be stationed strategically around the city to watch for anyone acting suspiciously.
There is no known terror threat anticipated, according to officials.
Davis said police had no intention of discouraging people from wearing masks or bulky costumes. He said it is unlikely that anyone looking to commit a terrorist act would dress in costume.
“Somebody who is trying to get away with something like that is more likely to dress normally” and blend in, Davis said.
In recent years, police have changed their strategies for dealing with crowds. In the past, officers suited up in black riot gear and batons descended on jubilant crowds that flooded the streets, a practice which often led to tense confrontations. Now, the strategy is to have lines of officers in regular uniform and reflective vests supervise the crowds and let fans celebrate within confined spaces.
The riot-gear equipment, those black helmets and thick vests, typically stay in the trunks of police cruisers.
“We don’t roll out the ‘turtle guys’ unless we need them,” Davis said.