Security at the Boston Marathon to Remain Tight in 2016

Marathon spectators are discouraged from bringing bags and bulky items to the race.
Boston Marathon Executive Director Tom Grilk addresses the media. Photo by Garrett Quinn

Boston Marathon Executive Director Tom Grilk addresses the media. Photo by Garrett Quinn

The 2016 Boston Marathon security experience for spectators will be much the same as it has been in recent years: very noticeable.

Law enforcement is strongly urging people to not bring large bags, bulky items, or coolers to anywhere along the route because it could delay their entry into designated spectator areas. All items will be subject to search at checkpoints. Marathon spectators are being asked to carry any personal items in a clear plastic bag to make it easy for a quick inspection by police. A complete list of “banned” items is available here.

All spectators are required to go through an inspection check point if they want to access a viewing area along the marathon route, said Boston Police Deputy Superintendent Bill Ridge. In past years, police have manned the checkpoint stations, but the searches and inspections were done by private, outside security contractors.

There have been some tweaks to this year’s marathon security plan, but it is unlikely any of them will be visible to casual attendees along the route. Public safety officials declined to go into details about the behind-the-scenes changes at this year’s marathon during a press conference at the Copley Square Fairmont on Wednesday.

“The plan in many ways is similar to last year, and to the public it will probably look and feel the same. The public will look and see a large presence of uniform and plain clothes police officers,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency Director Kurt Schwartz.

Just under 5,000 law enforcement officers from local, state, and federal agencies will be mixed in among the one million spectators at this year’s running of the Boston Marathon. Officers will be at security checkpoints, scattered along the route, and manning a command center overseeing the operation.

For the second year in a row, drones are banned from the marathon course and the spectator areas along the route.

Hank Shaw, FBI special agent in charge of the Boston bureau, referenced the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino while emphasizing that there are no credible threats to Boston or the marathon at this time. Shaw said his office will deploy over 200 agents on the day of the marathon.

“We remain mindful of the threat posed by homegrown extremists or ideologically-inspired actors who may move to act on a moment’s notice,” said Shaw.

Once again, bandit running, or illegally running in the marathon as an unregistered participant, is formally discouraged, though officials stopped short of threatening arrest.

Spectators are encouraged to use public transportation to attend the event, because driving will be extremely difficult with extensive road closures and limited parking in the start and finish areas. All MBTA stations will be open throughout the day with the exception of Copley Station, according to Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green.


Garrett Quinn
Garrett Quinn Garrett Quinn, Boston Magazine bmagdigital+gquinn@gmail.com