Police will be out in full force — on streets, bridges, rooftops, in the air and on the sea — to keep runners and spectators at the New York City Marathon safe, NYPD officials said Wednesday.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said authorities are not aware of any specific, credible threats to Sunday’s marathon, but the 51,000 runners and 2.5 million spectators expected to participate in the world-famous race will see an overwhelming police presence throughout the course.
“This is our job, to keep people safe,” O’Neill said during a news conference in Central Park Wednesday, not far from the marathon finish line. “The bottom line is the New York City Marathon is one of the most well-policed, best-protected events anywhere in the nation.”
The New York City Marathon is especially difficult for police because it snakes through all five boroughs for more than 26 miles, O’Neill acknowledged. Unlike other big events, such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade or the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, it is not limited to an easily secured geographic area. “It is a challenge,” O’Neill said.
Nerves remain raw and frayed in New York and across the nation, moreover, in the wake of what officials deemed an anti-Semitic attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday that left 11 people dead, as well as the pipe bombs mailed to prominent Democrats and CNN’s offices in Manhattan — just blocks from the marathon finish line.
The city is also still recovering from last year’s Halloween terror attack, when a man driving a pickup truck along a bike path by the Hudson River mowed down pedestrians and cyclists, killing eight people and injuring 11 others.
NYPD chief of department Terence Monahan said thousands of police officers, including heavy-weapons teams, K-9 units, bomb squad officers and other specialists, will be deployed along the marathon route Sunday. The department’s aviation unit and officers deployed on rooftops will monitor the route from above, while the harbor unit will protect waterways and bridges.
Plainclothes cops will fan out through crowds along the route to keep an eye out for problems, Monahan added.
“You are going to see thousands of cops lining the route,” Monahan said. “There will be a lot of police officers that you won’t see that will be out there.”
The department is also positioning sanitation trucks, sand trucks and concrete barricades along the route to prevent a repeat of last year’s bike path attack, Monahan said.
John Miller, the NYPD deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said radiation and biological weapons detection teams will also be placed along the marathon route.
“What we try to do is increase the protection without affecting the event or the way the event is fun and successful,” Miller said.
Officials also called on runners and spectators to notify police immediately if they see something suspicious.
“If someone sees something, say something. There are going to be cops everywhere,” Monahan said. “Go up to a cop if you see anything looks suspicious. If you can’t, call 911.”