EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

April 21, 2013

Police rethink security at outdoor events, amid obstacles


Today’s events include the 31st Annual Run of the Charles Canoe and Kayak Race on the Charles River through Boston and 10 other municipalities, which last year attracted 1,500 paddlers and thousands more spectators. Police from five of the 11 municipalities that the course runs through will provide security on the riverbanks and a state police marine unit will have two boats on the Charles, said event director Meg Schermerhorn.

“Of course I thought about it, a lot,” Schermerhorn said about whether she reconsidered security at the race following the marathon bombings, then concluded she was satisfied.

“We go by what they think we need,” she said, referring to local and state police. “We have a lot of police on the water and at the finish line. We have volunteers along the course. We have ham operators, who also were at the marathon.”

In the Merrimack Valley, one of the biggest annual outdoor events is the Feaster Five, a five-mile road race first run on Thanksgiving Day in Andover 25 years ago, which last year attracted 10,720 runners. Bill Pennington organized the races for the first five years and now organizes the Run For The Troops, a race that raises money to provide housing for disabled veterans. The race attracted 2,000 runners when it was last run on April 3.

Pennington said he worries about a terror trickle-down, where smaller events like his could become easier targets because they provide less security. At the same time, he said he worries that not much more can be done to thwart terror at outdoor public events.

“There are thousands and thousands of road races and events throughout the country,” said Pennington, who made it to mile 25 at the Boston Marathon on Monday before he and his daughter were forced off the course. “I don’t think there’s a hell of a lot you can do. If you protect the finish line, then at mile two-and-a-half somebody could do something crazy. There were police at the Boston Marathon on every block. Every intersection, there was a policeman or National Guardsman. And still it happened.”

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