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The Telegram
  • Officials taking closer look at Boilermaker security

  • The explosions that turned Monday’s running of the Boston Marathon into a horrific tragedy could very well affect how this year’s Boilermaker Road Race is run.

    At the very least, Boilermaker officials hope to use what they learn from Monday’s deadly finish in Boston to make Utica’s July 14 race as safe as possible.

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  • The explosions that turned Monday’s running of the Boston Marathon into a horrific tragedy could very well affect how this year’s Boilermaker Road Race is run.
    At the very least, Boilermaker officials hope to use what they learn from Monday’s deadly finish in Boston to make Utica’s July 14 race as safe as possible.
    “Every race director in the country is going to be looking at their contingency plans. Every race director is going to look long and hard at this,” said Tim Reed, executive director of the Boilermaker.
    “We are going to be a lot smarter a week from now. Right now, though, we’re kind of in the punch-in-the face mode. … This is just very, very distressing,” he added.
    It is too soon to say what changes, if any, will be made in the three months before the 36th running of the Boilermaker.
    Reed, however, called the Boston Marathon a “very tempting target that involves people from virtually every country in the world and every state in the nation,” and when it comes to potential targets in Central New York, the Boilermaker — with 18,500 runners entered in the 15K and 5K races, 6,000 volunteers and countless spectators — comes closest to fitting that description.
    “We are going to be having an awfully, awfully long conversation with our security people,” Reed said. “We obviously want the Boilermaker to be a safe experience.”
    Joseph LaBella, assistant security director for the Boilermaker, already has been in contact with the Boston Police Department, hoping to learn as much as possible about Monday’s troubling events.
    He then plans to meet with other Boilermaker officials to discuss what “adjustments” or “concessions” might be made for this year’s race — for instance, eliminating garbage cans and banning backpacks near the finish line and post-race party.
    “We’re going to be learning from this,” said LaBella, a former longtime member of the Utica Police Department who works at the homeland security center in Oriskany. “We’re going to be taking another long, hard look at our security plan here. Once more information comes in from Boston, we’ll know how to adjust and hopefully, prevent anything that could happen from happening.
    “Safety is everything. We’re going to do whatever we have to do. We’ll make it work. That’s what we do here,” he added.
    Mayor Robert Palmieri said event security and possible changes will be discussed at a staff meeting today and as the Boilermaker draws closer.
    Palmieri said security at the Boilermaker is handled by a conglomerate of agencies, including Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, several local police departments and the state police coordinate for security measures.
    “Public safety all work together, from the fire department, police and ambulance and work with other agencies,” he said. “It’s a well-oiled machine.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Despite that, no event is 100 percent secure.
    “It’s like finding a needle in a haystack,” Palmieri said. “You can’t prevent everything, no matter how much you want to.”
    Since the road race began, the Utica Police Department’s security plans have evolved over the years and continue to evolve, Chief Mark Williams said. Aware that the crowded streets at the Boilermaker could be a target for anyone set on causing harm, Utica police already call in extra forces from other departments and use bomb-sniffing dogs as a precaution against any security threats that might arise.
    “Let’s face it: We don’t live in an environment that is safe nowadays,” Williams said. “The terrorist attacks of 9/11 changed the playing field of how we think about domestic and external terrorism. And maybe we’re not Boston, but I think everybody has to keep in mind that the Boilermaker is one of the few events in the city of Utica that is a mass gathering of thousands of people.”
    Contributing: Steve Hughes and Rocco LaDuca
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