PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — Santa Monica officials in charge of security for the Los Angeles Marathon, which ends on Ocean Avenue, said procedures are in place to protect the public from an attack like the fatal one that took place Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
In that attack, two people were killed and at least 86 injured following two bomb blasts, race organizers and police said.
During the L.A. Marathon, which attracted roughly 23,000 runners last month, Santa Monica police officers are stationed at key points along the marathon route and restrict access, said Sgt. Richard Lewis, spokesman for the SMPD. Officers also use bomb-detecting dogs throughout the course when it enters the city by the sea.
Movement at the finish line, where thousands of spectators gather, is also highly restricted, suspicious people are searched and pods where runners’ clothing are stored are searched and under the watchful eye of police to ensure they are not tampered with, Lewis added.
But even with those and other precautions, “there’s nothing to say [an attack] couldn’t happen anywhere,” Lewis said.
The Boston blasts had public safety officials in Los Angeles and across California reconsidering their plans for large-scale events.
Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said his department will increase officer deployments at sporting events, according to the L.A. Times, as did L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca.
“While the cause of the explosions this morning at the Boston Marathon are still under investigation, our vigilance has been raised,” Baca said in a statement.
“The heightened alert of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department includes increased patrols to create a more visible presence where people congregate, such as government buildings, shopping centers, athletic events, and public transit,” he added.
British police are reviewing security plans for Sunday’s London Marathon, the next major international marathon, because of the bombs that killed two people at the race in Boston. But there is no known specific or credible threat against the London race at the moment, a security official said.
The London Marathon is a hugely popular event. Last year, some 37,500 athletes competed, with many more watching the springtime event.
London has long been considered a top target for international terrorists, with the government saying the threat level is “substantial.” In 2005, a series of suicide attacks on the public transport system in the British capital killed 52 people.
Public safety officials in Santa Monica begin preparations for the L.A. Marathon at least six months in advance and hold many meetings in the weeks leading up to the event, which has ended in Santa Monica four years running. Lewis said the Boston bombing will “definitely be a topic of concern as we address security needs of the marathon.”
It’s too early to tell if any new security measures will be enacted. Lewis said SMPD officers will be in contact with law enforcement from other agencies involved in the marathon to determine the best course of action.
Officials with the L.A. Marathon could not be reached for comment.
In the event of a terrorist attack or significant incident, Santa Monica’s Emergency Operations Center goes into full swing, coordinating response and disseminating information to law enforcement, event organizers and participants and their families.
“First of all, we worry about the protection of life and property,” said Paul Weinberg, emergency services coordinator for City Hall. “Then, we’re coordinating information … . Following up on that is getting public information out: how to locate families, letting people know that the city is doing everything we can to respond.”
Weinberg and his team would also be coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to assess resources and determine who needs support and where. Hospitals would also be brought into the loop.
“I watched it, and I feel for the people in Boston,” Weinberg said. “This is a reminder of people needing to be prepared, trained and listening through officials. If it were to happen here our police officers would take the lead.”
Those who have family in Boston, including local school board member Ralph Mechur, whose daughter Jayme, 31, was running in the marathon, can use the Red Cross’ Safe and Well feature (safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php)on its website to find family members or use the Google person tracker (google.org/personfinder/2013-boston-explosions/).
Mechur’s daughter was not injured in the bombings, he wrote on his Facebook page. She was a half-mile from the finish line when the bombs exploded.
A total of 22 Santa Monica residents were registered to run in the marathon, according to the Boston Marathon entry list.