Reviewing Marathon Safety in C-U, Other Cities
By Chris Berube, with Additional Reporting from the Associated Press and Illinois Public Radio
The security coordinator for the Illinois Marathon says some new initiatives are being explored in the wake of Monday’s bombings in Boston. And similar efforts are underway in cities like Chicago and Indianapolis.
Retired Champaign Police officer Scott Freidlein said a meeting Wednesday with law enforcement officials will determine which of those will be exercised for the Champaign-Urbana event, coming up April 25-27.
Freidlein said the marathon in Champaign-Urbana clearly isn’t on the same public level as the Boston Marathon, but says the goal is helping participants and the public feel comfortable.
He said security measures will be heightened where the most people will gather.
“Even like with Boston, it was at the finish line," he said. "That’s a very logical place to put something like that, to cause the massive amount of causalities that they had. So in our case, we finish inside Memorial Stadium. It’s a landmark for our community at the University of Illinois. That would be a likely area, so we’re going beef up and do what we have to do to make sure that area is covered.”
Freidlein said the bombings have actually prompted a few to volunteer at the Illinois Marathon, saying they want to part of an event that’s important. He says additional resources for event security are likely. Freielein said bomb-sniffing dogs are a possibility.
Wendy Jaehn is executive director of the FirstMerit Bank Lakefront 10 Miler scheduled for Saturday in Chicago. She says she'll ask runners to limit how much gear they bring and try to get bomb-sniffing dogs, too.
And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the Chicago Marathon will go forward as planned, despite the bombings in Boston.
Security at City Hall didn’t seem much tougher than usual Tuesday, save for a pair of Chicago Police officers on horseback, hanging around LaSalle Street.
Emanuel suggested city officials are calm - but ready.
"There is no, as I said, credible threat," he said. "That doesn’t mean we don’t stay vigilant."
Emanuel said he met with top security officials Tuesday morning - but Chicago Police wouldn’t say whether they’ve put in place any extra patrols or other measures.
As for the Chicago Marathon, in October...
"The marathon will go on," Emanuel said. "It’s a great part of the City of Chicago. It’s a great event, as well as it brings in about 170 million dollars in economic growth to the City of Chicago, and so it will continue."
A spokesman for the marathon confirmed it is going forward - but wouldn’t say what, if any, route changes or extra security will be in place.
Indianapolis' public safety director says the city will increase security at upcoming events such as the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, but spectators likely won't notice the changes.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials and Indiana State Police say they are confident in their security plan for this year's Indianapolis 500 and won't remove trash cans from the track in response to deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Brian Olehy said during a news conference Tuesday that officers will conduct frequent security sweeps of garbage cans but won't remove them because doing so would pose a health hazard.