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Reed: AJC Peachtree Road Race will go on, but with enhanced security

6:45 PM, Apr 29, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Mayor Kasim Reed is promising unprecedented protection at the Peachtree Road Race this year.

The event draws 60,000 runners from around the world and more than 150,000 spectators. But after the Boston bombing, there have been concerns about safety.

"Today, my message is a simple one: The Peachtree Road Race will run in Atlanta on July 4," Reed said. "We will not the acts of two sick murderers to alter our way of life or our behavior."

While the event will proceed as scheduled, Reed admits, it will be different, with more security on the ground and in the sky.

"I don't want to paint a fairy tale picture. The city is not going to run normally that day. We're going to deploy extraordinary resources to keep it safe and it's going to be disruptive," he said.

Disruptive because in the two weeks since the Boston attack, police in Atlanta say calls to report suspicious packages have increased 30%, shutting down roads, freeways and businesses for hours as agencies investigate.

While none of the calls have actually been bombs, the Mayor says he wants that same kind of vigilance at the race.

Police plan to train 30 more officers in SWAT skills, nearly tripling the number that can respond to such calls. Chief George Turner says he'll also have more officers on the streets and reviewing video surveillance. Its working right now to make sure the entire race route is visible by camera and connected to the city's command center.

"We started off with about 50 cameras last year and now we have more than 1300 that are fully integrated," said Turner.

The Atlanta Track Club which hosts the event says safety will come first, but shouldn't overshadow the importance of the day.

"We have the opportunity to make the AJC Peachtree Road Race a run for solidarity and freedom as 60,000 people make their way down Peachtree Road," said Tracy Russell, the executive director of the Atlanta Track Club which hosts the event.

Russell says she was in Boston at the time of the attack. Her and the Mayor talked shortly after the blast and determined the race in Atlanta would go on.

The race is the world's largest 10K. Russell says this year's event will include ways to pay tribute to the victims in Boston.

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