State police to ramp up helicopter surveillance over course
FRAMINGHAM – Most people heading to the Marathon route on Monday have a good idea of what they’ll be seeing this year – uniformed and undercover police along city streets, bomb-sniffing dogs, security checkpoints at the starting and finish lines.
Police aren’t just ramping up their presence on the ground, however. During a demonstration at state police headquarters in Framingham Thursday, officials said increased security will be reflected skyward as well.
Major Richard Prior, commander of the State Police Special Operations unit, said there will be four Air Wing helicopters above the Marathon route at any given time on Monday. Last year, there was only one flying over the race.
Beginning at 7 a.m., the helicopters, equipped with extensive camera systems, will be responding to calls along the route and assisting authorities on the ground, Prior said.
The roving helicopters are part of the increased security measures all along the race route in place following last year’s twin bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line.
With about 10,000 more runners in this year’s race and the large crowd that’s expected to turn out to cheer the runners on, Prior said there will be plenty for police both on the ground and in the sky to keep track of.
The helicopters have downlink systems that allow the camera signal to be beamed down to troopers or other agencies on the ground instantaneously, Prior said.
Air Wing Commander Rob Smith said that he doesn’t expect any major challenges on Monday barring some cloudy weather, which forces the helicopters to fly lower and can further congest an already crowded air space.
Also at the Framingham state police headquarters Thursday was the helicopter crew that was flying above Watertown last year during the search and eventual capture of bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev.
The three troopers, Ed Mathurin, Eric Fairchild and Mark Spencer, were flying above the boat in which Tsarnaev was found to be hiding, feeding an infrared video feed to troopers on the ground.
Mathurin said that he and his fellow crew members will be working this year to make sure that the event is safe for runners and spectators.
"There shouldn’t be the events that we witnessed last year," he said. "This year, we just want to make sure that we have all our resources in place and we keep the public safe."
State Police Superintendent Col. Timothy Alben, standing outside the headquarters entrance before the press briefing Thursday, said that law enforcement agencies were collaborating closely on the new security deployment.
"There will be a lot more that you will see and a lot more that you won’t see," he said.
Alben said that authorities will also be relying on members of the public to give a heads-up on race day.
"People need to pay close attention to what’s around them," he said. "The public and the people watching the Marathon are an incredibly important part of this security package."
Kendall Hatch can be reached at 508-490-7453 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Kendall_HatchMW.