Police across the country will deploy many time-tested tools and strategies during Fourth of July celebrations. But they’ll use a few new ones as well to keep revelers safe this year.
While authorities insist there have been no specific threats, security has become a pressing concern in U.S. cities this holiday weekend after recent terror attacks overseas on so-called “soft targets” — events and facilities where large numbers of people gather, reported USA Today.
In Boston, police will be deploying a tethered drone. They will collect aerial views of the crowd and activities during the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular, which could attract 500,000 people along the Charles River.
Tethered drones — unmanned flying objects with lines attached to an object — allow authorities to receive and broadcast events on the ground. Since they control the miniature aircraft’s movement, they reduce the chance for pilot error or crashes.
Boston Police Department used the drone earlier this year at the Boston Marathon in addition to last month’s Sail Boston.
The Massachusetts State Police Marine Unit and Air Wing also will be patrolling the Charles River during the event, along with plainclothes troopers, local police, trained dogs and federal bomb detection teams on the ground, according to USA Today.
As has become commonplace post 9/11, heavy trucks and equipment will be used to block key city streets in and around the event area.
And while local police patrols will be prominent at the fireworks show, city officials plan an even heavier police presence in Boston neighborhoods during the July Fourth holiday period — traditionally one of the city’s most violent weekends.
Meanwhile, New York Police Department will mount nearly 120 sand-filled trucks and “blocker vehicles” near popular viewing spots in Manhattan during the Macy’s Fireworks Show and other July Fourth events.
Authorities say trucks have been parked strategically along New York City parade routes and other public gatherings. This was inspired by the Bastille Day massacre last July, when a terrorist-driven truck that plowed into a crowd viewing fireworks in Nice, France killed 86 people.
NYPD Chief of Department Carlos Gomez said this is the first year trucks will be deployed at the Macy’s celebration. It is a nationally televised fireworks and concert event on the East River watched by millions of people.
Along with the trucks, NYPD plans to assign several thousand uniformed officers to patrol during the event — many of them at checkpoint sites. Those officers will be equipped with radiation detectors for bag searches.
Event-goers may also see members of NYPD’s heavily armed “striker team” on patrol.
As citizens see these strategies, hopefully they appreciate the efforts being made to keep them safe, rather than any imposition they incur.
Even New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a weekend press conference that spectators should not be afraid or concerned by their presence.
“See this as a good thing,” de Blasio said. “That’s what keeps us safe. We believe in strength in numbers.”
About 400 newly sworn-in NYPD officers will be scattered among the veterans in the city to keep people safe. They will be patrolling the crowd and looking for suspicious activity or behavior.
Washington, D.C., authorities also are making vehicle-related attacks a priority in security planning for July Fourth events such as the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival and A Capitol Fourth Show on the National Mall.
The National Parks Service and U.S. Park Police, which oversee security operations for National Mall events, plan to place large fences around the Mall on Monday.
Security checkpoints also will be set up for anyone going into the Mall area during the event.
People attending events in major cities are being asked to leave alcohol at home. Particularly drinks in glass containers. They are also being asked to leave fireworks at home and pets in a place of safety.
Most large-city fireworks festivals are “no-drone” events: meaning personal drones can’t be flown in the area.