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Police presence to double at this year's Boston Marathon

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FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — The number of police officers patrolling this year’s Boston Marathon will be doubled to more than 3,500, one year after two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260.

The enhanced police presence is part of a beefed-up security plan detailed Monday by public safety officials as they prepare for the April 21 marathon.

Spectators who plan to attend the marathon are being strongly discouraged from bringing backpacks, rolling bags, coolers and other large items, and are instead being asked to carry personal items in clear plastic bags. Anyone who does bring a bulky bag will be subject to search, officials said during a news conference at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s bunker in Framingham.

The new guidelines for spectators are similar to rules for runners made public several weeks ago by the Boston Athletic Association.

Authorities said they sought to strike a balance between keeping the traditional feel of the marathon and tightening security in response to last year’s deadly attack.

“We are confident that the overall experience of runners and spectators will not be impacted, and that all will enjoy a fun, festive and family-oriented day,” said Kurt Schwartz, the director of the Massachusetts Emergency Man­agement Agency.

Schwartz said police are looking to spectators to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity. Like runners, spectators are also being told they cannot bring containers with more than 1 liter of liquid and cannot wear bulky costumes or anything that covers their faces.

Unregistered runners known as “bandits” will be prohibited this year. Officials said the move was necessary because of security concerns and because organizers are expecting 9,000 additional runners this year – bringing the total field to 36,000 – and double the typical number of spectators for a crowd of up to one million.

Police and public safety officials from the eight cities and towns along the marathon course have been meeting for months to come up with a plan to beef up security.

Two brothers are suspected of building homemade bombs and placing them in backpacks near the finish line at last year’s marathon. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died after a shootout with police.

Kieran Ramsey, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston office, said there is “no specific intelligence indicating there is a threat to this year’s marathon.”

“At this point, we don’t have one, nor do we anticipate it,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey said the FBI and its law enforcement partners have met with officials in other cities that host large scale public events, including London and New York City.

Col. Timothy Alben, commander of the state police, said police will have more than 100 additional security cameras along the route and have also met with business owners to coordinate use of their surveillance cameras. He urged spectators to report anything at all suspicious to police.

“In this world, you never eliminate risk, you never bring it down to zero ... but we are working very hard at reducing that risk level and managing it to the best of our collective abilities,” he said.


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