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Boston Marathon finish line security visibility increased after backpack incident

Apr 16, 2014, 11:31 AM EDT

Boston Marathon AP

Security visibility will increase near the finish of the Boston Marathon after a man carrying a backpack with a rice cooker was arrested there Tuesday night.

“We are going to increase visibility over the next couple days because of that incident,” Boston police commissioner William Evans said Wednesday. “We’ll have bike patrols down there. Nobody should be afraid to come to Copley Square, and nobody should be afraid to run the 118th Boston Marathon.”

The race Monday was already scheduled to have more than double the security presence of last year, when two pressure cooker bombs in backpacks exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 260.

The man who walked barefoot down Boylston Street in pouring rain Tuesday night was stopped by an officer who saw him acting suspiciously and taken to a local hotel for questioning. He dropped the backpack on the street and told the officer it contained a rice cooker. A bomb squad blew up the backpack.

Evans said that incident was not a breach of security because Boylston Street was open, as it will remain all week. A second unattended backpack was found Tuesday, belonging to a media member.

“That [arrested] individual, like anyone, had the right to basically walk up the street,” Evans said. “He had a backpack, and within that minute, our officers were on him, and we had the backpack back down on the ground. Based on what he said and what was in the bag, that’s why we went to the precautions that we did. You can never be too safe nowadays.”

Officials expressed confidence in the “comprehensive” race security plan Wednesday.

“Unfortunately last night we had an incident that you can see what the anxiety level goes out when an unattended backpack is left on the street,” Evans said. “I think it really set the tone last night how important it is to ask you not to bring those type of items.”

Backpacks are not forbidden, but spectators — some one million expected — are asked not to bring them and to place items in clear plastic bags if they must.

Evans also said there will be a limit on crowds near the finish on Boylston Street on Monday and that they will be subject to possible searches getting into the area. Once security’s movement is impeded, they will ask people to move to another location.

“Don’t everyone flock to Boylston Street,” Evans said. “The less we have on Boylston Street, the better.”

Security statistics include over 3,000 uniformed police officers and National Guard soldiers deployed along the course, up to 500 plain clothes officers in the crowd and over 100 video cameras along the eight cities and towns that will all have emergency operation centers.

Officials re-emphasized their goal among those staggering statistics — to maintain the traditional character of the Patriots’ Day event, the world’s oldest annual marathon.

“We’re not going to scare people,” Evans said. “Runners should be very confident coming to this race that it’s going to be safe and secure. … I don’t want everybody’s anxiety to be put up. That’s what troubles me about what happened last night.”

Boston Marathon tribute, moment of silence held near finish line

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