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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 along the route as the race marks the one-year anniversary of the bombings that killed three and injured more than 260 near the finish line in 2013.
Government and law enforcement agencies and race organizers convened a news conference at Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency headquarters Monday and outlined security measures for this year's race, which will be held April 21.
|The area near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, where athletic trainers joined with other first responders to help bombing victims.|
At least 3,500 police officers will be spread out along the route.
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."
Authorities 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 also includes coolers, blankets and any non form-fitting garments).
The 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 bolstering police and state National Guard forces on the ground, the number of bomb-sniffing dogs and surveillance cameras along the route will be increased.
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 bandits.
"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 in connection with the bombings. His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died following a shootout with police several days after the attacks.
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 included representatives from MEMA, Massachusetts Army National Guard, Secret Service, FBI and state, local and MBTA police forces.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.