Law enforcement officers at the Boston Marathon this month will use public works vehicles to block off pedestrian areas along the race course and will also use tethered drones to monitor the scene near the starting line in Hopkinton, organizers said Wednesday.
Local, state, and federal officials pledged to be on guard for any possibility of an attack during the April 17 race, New England’s largest sporting event. They said they know of no groups discussing or planning violence.
Leaders of the Boston Athletic Association, which organizes the Marathon, promised that the security endeavor would not detract from the festive atmosphere at the race. CEO Tom Grilk credited public safety officials for their months of planning.
“They make this not just the safest event that we have around here, but also the most engaging,” he said.
About 30,000 runners are expected, and as many as a million spectators could line the route.
The athletic association is encouraging people not to carry weapons, backpacks, suitcases, coolers, glass containers, cans, flammable items, containers larger than a liter, big handbags, large blankets, bulky costumes, or masks.
The signature race has been marked by three peaceful years after two bombs exploded near the finish line on April 15, 2013. The Boylston Street bombings killed three people and injured more than 260.
Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said planners have to be concerned not only about attacks similar to those that have been carried out before, but also about unanticipated acts of violence.
Some attacks, like the recent one in London in which an assailant struck pedestrians with a vehicle, then fatally stabbed a police officer, have relied on easily available weapons.
“You see knives, you see guns, you see cars as the mode of attack, so our concerns are, what’s next? And how do we stay in front of that?” Shaw said.
He also noted that the sites of previous attacks can appeal to terrorists as emotional targets.
“There is symbolism in terms of an event that was already previously attacked. So we’re mindful of that, we’re guarded to it, we take it very seriously,” he said.
“But most importantly, there isn’t anything out there that indicates that there is an active threat or interest against this running of the Boston Marathon.”
Officials said that’s why they are drawing on lessons of the 2013 bombings, along with more recent attacks here and elsewhere, to develop plans to keep the event safe.
About 5,000 law enforcement officers are expected to provide protection for the event.
Boston police are planning to screen people entering the area around the finish line, as they have in previous years, and they will begin closing roads in the most heavily packed areas earlier than in the past.
Organizers are also trying out a drone surveillance program in Hopkinton, where many people gather to watch the start of the race.
There will be two drones, which will fly at 400 feet altitude, to feed video into public safety command centers. The devices will not be flying over areas where spectators will gather.Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.