Enhanced security to remain in place for Boston Marathon
The race will occur one day before the sentencing phase of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev begins
By Bob Salsberg
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Enhanced security measures will remain in place for next Monday's Boston Marathon, the second since the deadly 2013 bombing at the finish line of the iconic race, authorities said.
"This plan will look very much like the plan that was in effect last year," said Kurt Schwartz, Massachusetts' undersecretary for homeland security, at a briefing Monday at the state's emergency management headquarters.
As was the case for the 2014 race, the first since twin bombs hidden in backpacks killed three people and injured more than 260 others, the anticipated 1 million spectators along the 26.2 mile course were being strongly urged to put personal belongings in clear plastic bags and avoid bringing backpacks, other large bags or coolers to the race.
Security checkpoints will be in place in key locations such as the finish line area and the start line in Hopkinton, officials said.
One new wrinkle: Police are warning against the use of any drones or model aircraft.
"The entire course this year will be a no-drone zone," said Col. Timothy Alben, commander of the Massachusetts state police. He added that while drones have not been an issue in the past, they have been seen at other large public events around the country and have attracted the attention of security officials.
There were no known threats of any kind against Monday's race, authorities stressed.
The 2015 race comes less than two weeks after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was convicted by a federal jury on 30 counts related to the bombing and subsequent events including the fatal shooting of a police officer. The sentencing phase of the trial, in which federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty, is scheduled to begin the day after the marathon.
Authorities did not ask U.S. District Court Judge George O'Toole to delay the sentencing phase until after the marathon, Alben said.
The judge said in a written order that the defense had requested more time to resolve logistical issues with potential witnesses.
Massachusetts officials described the enhanced security procedures for the marathon as "reasonable and commonsense guidelines," not meant to detract from a family friendly Boston tradition nor discourage anyone from coming out to watch and cheer the runners on.
"I don't know if it's a new normal," said Schwartz when asked if he expected to new guidelines to be permanent. "We're just focused on next Monday."
Officials said they expected public cooperation with security measures to be equally strong as a year ago.
Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, said about 30,000 runners were registered for Monday's event, down from last year's expanded field of 36,000 that included anyone who had been unable to finish the 2013 marathon due to the bombing.
The BAA, which organizes the race, planned to continue its crackdown from a year ago on unregistered runners who jump on to the course.
Often referred to as "bandit" runners, they can present "a very legitimate security anxiety for everybody who is both watching the race and in the race," Grilk said.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press