NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Fears of a Boston Marathon copycat attack at two running races this Sunday, including the 9/11 Memorial run, has the NYPD on high alert and ramping up security in a big way.
Before the Boston bombings police were treating this Sunday’s road races in Central Park and to the 9/11 Memorial as just two more events in the Big Apple. All they were planning to add were some extra traffic cops.
But not now.
When asked about the potential for added security for the events, Joe Daniels, the head of security for the 9/11 memorial Foundation, told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer, “Oh yes, particularly in light of what happened at the Boston Marathon we can tell our runners and walkers they can rest assured that there’s a lot of focus on any events in New York, this run in particular.
Daniels was speaking about the NYPD’s decision to assign hundreds of extra anti-terror cops — the whole counter-terrorism overlay — to protect the 3,000 runners and walkers who, starting at Pier 57, will race 3.1 miles to the World Trade Center to raise money for the 9/11 museum.
“There will be a good allocation of resources,” Daniels said.
Sources told CBS 2’s Kramer that because of fear of a copycat attack following the Boston Marathon bombings special precautions are being taken to protect those participating in the 9/11 run as well as a 5k charity race in Central Park that is expected to include 8,000 runners, including 400 children.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said there will also be bomb dogs, vapor wake dogs that can detect the scent of explosives, and lots of uniformed officers to scare would be terrorists away. Trash cans will be removed and bag searches will be conducted at the entrance and finish lines of the races.
The stepped-up counterterrorism plan will also include:
* Runners will only be allowed to bring items in clear, plastic bags
* Cops from the Technical Assistance Response Unit with hand-held cameras on the ground in the hopes that the cameras will act as a deterrent.
* There will also be cameras on rooftops along the 9/11 run
Meanwhile, New York Road Runners is enhancing baggage security measures for the race in Central Park.
Runners are being encouraged not to bring bags to the City Parks Foundation Run for the Parks, but people who do will be asked to put all their belongings in a clear, plastic bag provided by race officials. The NYRR cautions runners that any unattended bags will be confiscated.
“The safety and security of all New York Road Runners’ races is and will always be our top priority,” NYRR president Mary Wittenberg said in a statement after the Boston attack. “We will continue to work hand in hand with the City of New York and the NYPD as we plan for upcoming events.”
Runners in shorter-distance events have traditionally been allowed to use their own bags to stash their clothes and other post-race items, which are stored in a designated area staffed by volunteers. But many longer, larger races tightened their gear-check policies several years ago, requiring all runners to use a bag — often clear — provided by organizers. Organizers of the half-marathon and marathon in Austin, Texas, for example, have been providing runners with clear plastic bags for their belongings for almost a decade.
At Sunday’s London Marathon, only gear stored in the official bag provided by race organizers will be accepted. Next weekend’s Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon and Half-Marathon, organized as a tribute to the victims of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people at that city’s federal building, only accepts gear in the clear plastic bag it provides runners.
New York Road Runners puts on dozens of races a year, including the New York City Marathon. The club did not say if the policy for Sunday’s run will extend to future races.
Despite terror fears and the heightened security, runners said they won’t be deterred.
“It’s something to worry about but I mean that shouldn’t let us stop from doing, you know, continue what we should be doing,” Chelsea resident Carlos Sivori said.
“We have to keep living normally, doing what we’re doing,” added Rebecca Fenton of Greenwich Village.
It’s not exactly clear who is going to pay for the increased security. If the Central Park event is ruled a charity, the city will pay; otherwise, the sponsors pay.
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