Drones will be banned along the entire Boston Marathon course for the first time next week. Spectators are being urged not to carry weapons, backpacks, coolers, large handbags, or blankets. No bandit runners will be allowed to jump into the race.
“We are asking the public to exercise vigilance and common sense,” Kurt Schwartz, the state undersecretary of public safety and director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, said during a news conference Monday. “These guidelines are not onerous.”
Despite enhanced security, which has become the norm since the bombings near the finish line in 2013 killed three people and wounded 260, officials said they are confident it won’t interfere with the spirit of the event.
“This is about celebration,” said Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy P. Alben, noting that the Marathon, April 20, falls on school vacation week and on a day when the Red Sox will be playing at home. “It’s not meant to be prohibitive. We want you to come out and enjoy this.”
Runners and spectators at the Marathon should expect the same enhanced security as last year, with 3,500 police officers and National Guard soldiers patrolling the course. There will be security checkpoints, bag searches, and officers sweeping the crowds with bomb-sniffing dogs.
While most of the guidelines issued by state officials for this year’s Marathon are the same as last year’s, the ban on drones and all remotely controlled model aircraft is new. They are prohibited from flying over runners or spectators along the 26.2 mile course that starts in Hopkinton and winds through Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, and Brookline, finishing in Boston.
“The entire course this year will be a No Drone Zone,” said Schwartz, noting it means “over the course, over spectators, or anywhere in sight of runners or spectators.”
Alben said there has been a growing concern around the country about the use of drones, including at sporting events, and police are warning Marathon-goers, “Look, don’t create problems by flying these things.”
Officials are urging spectators to participate in a “See Something, Say Something” campaign, by calling 911 or alerting police in the area to report any suspicious activity.
MEMA and the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the race, have established “Massachusetts Alerts,” a free app that allows Android and iPhone users to get public safety updates on the Marathon.
The 119th Boston Marathon will be held the day before a federal jury is scheduled to reconvene in the second phase of the trial of convicted bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to consider whether the 21-year-old should be sentenced to death.
During Monday’s news conference, Alben said law enforcement officials were unaware of any threats related to the upcoming Marathon.
Thomas Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, urged bandit runners, who are not registered entrants, to stay out of the race. He said they cause security concerns and could be a drain on medical resources intended for official runners.
The BAA’s website, baa.org, offers details about street closings, restricted items, and additional information for runners and spectators.
Schwartz said there will be “firewalls” of security in some areas near the starting line in Hopkinton and the finish line in Boston.
“Outside those areas for most of the 26.2 miles this is an open venue,” Schwartz said, adding that spectators can “come and go as they please.” Spectators are urged to carry personal items in clear plastic bags.