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The Telegram
  • Marathon security: 'We got your back'

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  • HOPKINTON – The massive Massachusetts State Police mobile incident command center played a pivotal role in the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev last year.
    Tsarnaev is being charged with detonating two bombs at the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon.
    The command center – a 53-foot long tractor-trailer – served as the base of operations and held Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Tom Menino and state police Col. Timothy Alben during last year’s manhunt to find Tsarnaev. It was one year ago Friday when police found and arrested Tsarnaev in a boat parked in a Watertown backyard.
    The state-of-the-art unit will be in Hopkinton this year as part of heightened security measures. On Friday, it was parked at Hopkinton High School.
    There will be cameras installed along the route and officers in both uniform and plain clothes.
    Over the past year the unit’s equipment has had major technology and communication upgrades, Alben said. The unit has the ability to downlink footage from the department’s helicopters and transmit radio communications to local, state and federal agencies.
    "This is really going to be the nerve center at least for Monday’s operation," Alben said as he gave a tour of the mobile unit Friday morning.
    Hopkinton Police Chief Edward Lee said there have been many collaborative efforts between law enforcement agencies to ensure everyone’s safety on Monday. But the added security shouldn’t keep anyone away – it’s going to be a safe family-friendly event, he said.
    "We want people to come here," the chief said. "We got your back. We are more than prepared for this event."
    Lee joined the department as chief earlier this month.
    Inside the mobile command center, there is a conference center with 10 chairs and television monitors mounted along the walls. It’s equipped with telephones and Internet.
    "This is where we did our work in Watertown," Alben said.
    The equipment downlinks footage from helicopters as far as 19 miles away, he said.
    On Monday, state police will have four helicopters circling the course.
    "It is not only faster, it is less interrupted," Alben said of the downlink capabilities.
    The Marathon is challenging because there is no arena to control who comes in and out.
    "There is no such thing as zero risk. I’d say we’ve never been so prepared," he said. "I am confident we will have done as much as we can to prepare for this race."
    Alben said they have an unprecedented security plan but doesn’t want people thinking they are in a "police state."
    "I’ve heard that comment and is not the intent," he said. "Know that we are here for safety and not to infringe on the event."
    Page 2 of 2 - Lee said the start line is going to be different than previous years with everyone – including runners – being screened at security checkpoints.
    "The whole common used to be open," he said. "This year it will be cut it half. It provides a better overlay to keep our eyes on things."
    There will also be extra fencing making it so the runners and spectators will have no contact.
    Both Lee and Alben reminded people to be vigilant.
    "Our most important security is going to be people who are here on Monday," Alben said.
    "We don’t want anybody to stay home," he said. "Come out and root on the runners, enjoy your neighbors and support friends. But pay attention to what is going on around you."
    Jonathan Phelps can be reached at 508-626-4338 or jphelps@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @JPhelps_MW.
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