More security planned for Atlanta July 4 events

In an effort to bring “peace of mind” to those celebrating Independence Day, a large assemblage of police, troopers and federal agents will converge on Atlanta area parades and fireworks displays as well as the Peachtree Road Race next week.

The bombings at the Boston Marathon on Patriots’ Day last April will be heavy on their minds, police said Thursday.

So far, Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said, federal authorities who track terrorism have detected “no credible threats at this time” to July 4th events around Atlanta, including various fireworks displays Thursday night.

Still, people are asked to be vigilant, to report anything suspicious and to not carry backpacks or other bags to group events. The accused Boston bombers left explosives in backpacks placed on the sidewalk near the marathon finish line.

“It’s important that we bring this extra security and peace of mind to the hundreds of thousands of holiday revelers coming to the city for these iconic events,” Turner said. “Following the tragic evens at the Boston Marathon, it is critical and prudent for us to have a plan in place in the unlikely event of a crisis.”

All area law enforcement officers will be working between July 3 and July 5 — days off were cancelled — and most will be assigned to 12-hour shifts, Turner said. About 1,400 cameras have been recently installed along the Peachtree Road Race route.

“There should not be a single spot on the route that won’t have camera coverage. If there is anything that will occur, we will have eyes,” Turner said, referring to officers who will be watching monitors in the joint operations center a few blocks from City Hall. “We will have the entire event location on … surveillance. And we will have more police and troopers lining the route. We have put together a plan we feel strongly about.”

Law enforcement will begin making the road race route “secure” on Wednesday and heightened security will remain in place through July 5.

“The state of Georgia has made a sizable commitment of forces to these events,” Vernon Keenan, director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, said. He cited the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency as partners.

The FBI, the Georgia Army National Guard, MARTA police and various county and city agencies have also been involved in planning for any possible problems from pot holes to a bombing.

There will be additional fencing at the start and the end of the race. Anyone trying to get to the Meadow at Piedmont Park, where more than 60,000 runners will cross the finish line, will be checked if they are carrying backpacks or bags.

“Leave backpacks and other unnecessary items at home,” said Atlanta Track Club executive director Tracey Russell. “Please pack light.”

SWAT officers and bomb experts will be on stand-by. There will be more police officers— some not in uniform — and state troopers lining the 6.2-mile Peachtree Road Race route than in previous years. The hope is, according to Turner, “the general public will see very little difference.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.