Almost a year after the horror of last year’s Boston Marathon, a sense of normalcy has returned to Boylston Street.
But in less than two weeks, record crowds are expected to return — along with new anxieties about security. Keeping everyone safe is a job that falls on people like Massachusetts State Police Col. Timothy Alben.
"There will be things that you will see — like much more prominent security — and there will be other things that you will not see — like undercover people, some of the technical surveillance that goes on, and so forth," Alben said.
More than 3,500 police officers will be deployed — twice the number at last year’s marathon. And, of course, it all comes at a price.
"Well, it’s difficult to put a dollar figure on it, but I would say it’s fair to suggest that we’ll be expending twice as many resources this year as we did in past years," he said.
Because the marathon is a private event, much of the security expense falls on the Boston Athletic Association. But some residents say that even if public money is spent, they’re all for it.
"We’re hosting something in our city and like, if we have to pay for it flip the bill," said Roxbury resident Paul Chapman. "Do what you got to do. I’m glad my check is getting spent on that."
Vivian Grahling agrees to a point. She watched the bombs go off just blocks away from her Back Bay apartment and isn’t sure she’ll feel any safer with the increase in police.
"I really don’t, because If you have a will, there’s a way to do anything I think," she said. "Especially in an open area like that."
Jeff Gomer was at the finish line last year when the bombs went off. He’s not sure if the increase in security will make him safer, but he does think it will put people at ease.
"I don’t know if it makes me feel better, I think seeing the presence of police officers at the checkpoints, I think it gives, like I said, that piece of mind for individuals," he said.
That piece of mind is an important part of the equation, says Jennifer Lerner, who studies decision making as a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School.
"Even if the [security] measures only ameliorated fear, that would be a good thing," she said.
Lerner says that fear and anger in the wake of a terror attack can cloud people’s judgment, including that of policy makers.
"If someone is walking around with an overall sense of heightened fear, or heightened anger, and then that emotion carries over to color all of the decisions and judgments that they make, that’s a bias," she said.
Alben says he hasn’t seen any bias, but that’s a matter for others to decide.
"When our elected officials or the public think, 'Hey, maybe this is excessive,' that’s a decision for them to make," he said. "But for the time being, that’s what our job is, and we’ll do it until we’re told otherwise."
And he says this year’s security will be appropriate and effective.
"Come out; you’re safe," Alben said. "Come out and enjoy this day. Cheer these people on. And really cheer yourselves on, because we want to show our resiliency and our fortitude and the fact that we’re not going to bend to terrorism."