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April 21: Boston Marathon Security Boost

Since the bombings of last year’s Boston Marathon, the city has been planning to ramp up security. Planning has been going on all through this winter, and will be up and running (ha-ha) in this year’s event. With just about a month to go, preparations are still under way, and with 9,000 more runners than last year, there will be definite hurdles to overcome for anyone involved in event security.

The Boston Marathon next month will have a number of enhanced safety measures after last year’s deadly bombing, including thousands of uniformed and plainclothes officers and bomb-sniffing dogs.

NYTimes:

At least one million spectators, twice the usual crowd, are expected to gather along the 26.2-mile course, many of them at the finish line on Boylston Street, where two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring 260 others.

The security challenge is immense, in part because the event is spread across eight cities and towns along a route lined by spectators on both sides.

The challenge would have been immense even if the event was contained within a single city, or a single venue for that matter, but having to secure over 26 miles of public access area can be intimidating. To anyone. Security screening, public calls to limit the use of backpacks and encourage the use of clear plastic bags for belongings have been going on for a while already, and the 3,500 police officers that will be deployed are all measures far beyond what last year’e event saw.

Public safety officials said they had met with security personnel around the world in preparation for this year’s marathon, including several sessions with the New York City Police Department and security officials in London.

“We have to get this right 110 percent of the time; the bad guys only have to get lucky once,” said Kieran L. Ramsey, assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Boston office.

Despite the intense security upgrades, officials said they did not want Boston to appear to be a police state and they were trying to retain the festive and traditional character of the event, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world.

The balance between security, accessibility and avoidance of a “police state” feeling is where these things often fail, either to the one side or the other. Only experience can tell us where this year’s Boston Marathon ends up, so to speak, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed. The absolute best homage to the victims at last year’s event would be a Boston Marathon conducted peacefully, uneventfully and in the spirit of sportsmanship that should be the guiding light for anyone interested in physical fitness and physical challenges.

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