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Peachtree Road Race details changes to security after Boston Bombing

1:50 PM, Jun 30, 2013   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- It's an open field in Piedmont Park right now, but on July Fourth, it will be surrounded by a fence and those hoping to get in will have to go through security.

That is just one of the new security changes announced by Tracey Russell, the director of the Peachtree Road Race.

On Monday, the Atlanta Track Club which hosts the event sent an email to participants detailing some of the changes, including a color coded alert system to tell runners whether conditions are good - or extremely dangerous.

The alert is for security risks as well as problems with the weather, but many of the changes come as a direct response to the bombing in Boston.

Tracey Russell, the race director was in Boston at the time of the explosion.  

"I think right away we knew it was something that was going to change running," Russell said.

This week, more than 30 officers will finish SWAT training in time for the event.  Law enforcement from nearly every local, state and federal agency will fill a new command center at police headquarters.  

A police spokesman told 11Alive, off days have been cancelled and officers will work 12 hour shifts in the days leading up to and after the race.

Instead of cell phones, which were cut off immediately after the Boston attack, Atlanta will use more than 200 ham operators and commercial radios to communicate along the race route.

The city already had cameras along the 6.2 mile course, but in recent weeks, police say they've spent $418,000 to add and upgrade more. 

Russell says the eyes on the ground are just as important.

"What we want to do is encourage our runners and spectators, if they see something, say something," said Russell.

It's a motto that many have already heeded.  The week before the bombing, Atlanta police say they received 83 calls about suspicious packages. Immediately after, the number nearly doubled. Even now, more than a month later, the number remains high, with 118 calls.

Russell says bags heading into the meadow where runners pick up their t-shirts will be checked and is encouraging runners and spectators not to bring more to the event than they really need.

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