Boston planning 3,000 police for marathon

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- Authorities are urging cooperation and vigilance from participants and spectators of the 2014 Boston Marathon, which is expected to have over 36,000 runners and more than a million spectators watching along the route as Boston marks the one-year anniversary of the bombings that killed three and injured more than 260.

Government and law enforcement agencies and race organizers convened a news conference at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters Monday outlining security measures for this year's race, which will be held April 21.

Authorities say race watchers can expect to pass through security checkpoints in each of the eight communities along the course with an increased presence of thousands of uniform and plain-clothed law enforcement agents.

"The primary goal is to preserve the traditional feel and character of the Boston Marathon," said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, which is coordinating the security task force. "Our safety and security plan accomplishes this goal."

They also drew out a list of "discouraged" items along the route, which includes backpacks and over-the-shoulder bags of any kind. Runners will be allowed to wear fanny packs and fuel belt hydration systems, but officials emphasized that onlookers will be subject to increased security checks if having any of the listed items (which includes coolers, blankets and any non-form fitting garments).

The gathered officials agreed the public will play a significant role in securing the 26.2-mile course, asking for spectators to report suspicious activity to law enforcement on hand or by calling 911.

"We really want to appeal to the public in that way," Massachusetts State Police Colonel Timothy Alben said. "In this world, you never can eliminate risk. You can never bring it down to zero -- there are certain risks in crossing the street or going to work in the morning, or going to school. But we are working very hard at reducing the risk and managing it to the best of our collective ability."

In addition to multiplying police and state National Guard forces on the ground, bomb-sniffing dogs and an increased number of surveillance cameras have been increased along the route.

The Boston Athletic Association also will take a hardened stance against "unauthorized runners," commonly known as bandits, which in recent years have included an increasing number of U.S. Army ROTC cadets attempting to run the course. However, organizers did not comment as to which kind of punitive action would be taken against attempted bandit runners.

"This course is at capacity this year and it's just common sense" for bandits to stay off the course, Schwartz said.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and faces the possibility of the death penalty. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died following a shootout with police several days after the bombing.

Kieran Ramsey, an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, said the agency has "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.

Officials on hand for Monday's event promised further updates in the lead-up to the 118th Marathon and entailed representatives from MEMA, Massachusetts Army National Guard, Secret Service, FBI and state, local and MBTA police forces.