Marathon leaders work with Pittsburgh police to tighten security


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In light of the bombings in Boston, city officials and organizers of the Pittsburgh Marathon pledged Thursday that they would ramp up security and advised runners and spectators to avoid bringing large bags to the course that may unnecessarily arouse suspicion and to be prepared for extra screenings.

But as law enforcement continued to work out details of the revamped security plan, it still had not been determined whether race organizers or the city would pay for the extra measures. There's also the possibility that federal funds could cover some of the expenses.

Select areas near the start and finish line will be off-limits except to runners and will be surrounded by 6-foot high fencing and monitored by police officers or other security personnel.

Race organizers will give marathon runners clear bags to hold a change of clothes and other items they'd like to have transported to the finish line. Everyone should avoid bringing large duffel bags or backpacks and prepare to have them checked if they do.

"I think our message today is very clear. We want to make sure that the terrible acts that took place in Boston do not deter the spirit of the people of Pittsburgh, do not deter the runners," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said at a news conference with the race director and other city officials.

"There's been some talk about funding and how we're going to pull this off," he said. "We're going to figure this out. We're going to have the proper number of public safety on board."

PG graphic: Marathon start line corrals
(Click image for larger version)

Law enforcement officials from the Allegheny County Police Department and the sheriff's office, as well as the state police, Port Authority police and other agencies are being called in to offer extra assistance.

Pittsburgh police officers will not be able to take normally scheduled days off on May 5, the day of the marathon. Their individual pay rates are still being worked out and will depend upon how they were scheduled to work throughout the rest of the week, Tom Stangrecki, acting assistant chief of administration, said.

Extra city paramedics -- who are donating their wages from that day to a charity for Boston bombing victims -- will be stationed along the course. They will be assisted by 26 ambulance units from other agencies and prepared to use techniques that proved helpful in Boston.

"There will be some very visible security things you'll see and there will be many invisible security things in place that you will not see," city public safety director Michael Huss said.

He said spectators and runners can serve as a "force multiplier for us" by calling 911 if they spot any suspicious packages or activity.

His remarks came on the same day that Allegheny County officials notified the public about "See Something, Send Something," a phone app operated with the state police that allows people to send a photo or note to the Pennsylvania Criminal Intelligence Center, which will decide whether to investigate.

Race director Patrice Matamoros said security also will be heightened for the 5K and children's races on the day before the marathon, but the details are still being finalized. Organizers plan to contact runners with any additional security changes, she said.

Both city officials and Ms. Matamoros said they plan to settle payment for the extra security after the race, when they have a better sense of the amount of the additional expense.

On Tuesday, Ms. Matamoros said that if the marathon were forced to bear the entire cost, it could spell the end of the nonprofit organization.

Mr. Huss said officials might rely on "outside resources," which could include some federal funding.

Mr. Ravensthal, without going into specifics, said, "The marathon is not going to go bankrupt this year. It's not going to go bankrupt next year."

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Liz Navratil: lnavratil@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. First Published April 26, 2013 4:00 AM


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