With about 2 million people expected to flock to the Boston Harbor this weekend for the arrival of the tall ships, officials are heightening security in the Boston area.
Sail Boston, which kicks off Saturday at 9 a.m. with a parade of the tall ships and extends until Thursday, June 22, has been deemed one of the highest security risk events in the country this year, according to the Boston Globe — more so than the Boston Marathon and the city’s July Fourth celebrations, equivalent instead to that of the Super Bowl.
“We want everyone to have fun, but we also want everyone to be cautious and vigilant,” Mayor Marty Walsh said in a news conference Wednesday concerning safety precautions.
“I know today in news there’s a lot of concern about the shooting that happened to the congressman and staff, the fire in England, all different things going on in the world,” he said. “We want people to know that if you see something out of ordinary in the next couple of days, grab a public safety official. We’d rather be safe than sorry.”
Boston Police Commissioner William Evans said that there will be heightened security at viewpoints along the waterfront and the nearby neighborhoods, but also assured the public that there are no known threats to the event.
“What we really want to stress is that there are no threats to this,” he said. “We’ve been working with the FBI. We’ve been working hard on this plan just to make it a great day, and we have no doubt that it’s going to be.”
Evans said that the event will most impact the communities in South Boston, the downtown area, Charlestown and East Boston. There will be security checkpoints for the public to pass through, during which bags will be checked.
“We ask you to cooperate. Don’t bring large backpacks, coolers, don’t bring things that might slow down process of moving into particular area,” he said. “When a particular area gets full, we’re going to ask you to move on to another area to watch the ships come in.”
Evans also warned that there will be heavy machinery vehicles blocking the entrance to the waterfront, but again that does not signify a threat. It’s a new tactic, he said, to make sure the route is shut down so trucks don’t have access to the public.
The heightened security will not detract from police presence in other neighborhoods and throughout the rest of the city, Evans said.
Officials made multiple references to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and assured that local, state and federal officials have been collaborating to prepare for this event.
“Preparations for [Sail Boston] began a long time ago,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “We had a terrible experience in 2013, and a series of very successful and positive events since then.”
“The strategies and tactics being deployed by our security teams on this are absolutely first-rate,” he added. “They’re designed to be effective but at the same time not limit people's ability to enjoy the event."
Massachusetts State Police Col. Richard McKeon said that there will be a multilayered police presence, including state troopers in uniform, a bomb squad, K9 units and troopers in the crowd undercover. State police have also established a text-a-tip line the public can use; to report any suspicious activity at Sail Boston, you can text “SailBoston” and your message to 67283.
Special Agent Hank Shaw, who is in charge of the Boston FBI office, said that the bureau will deploy approximately 100 personnel per day to support Sail Boston. The Coast Guard will also have 100 reservists as well as others on command posts at the ready.
Transportation officials also acknowledged that traffic will be more intense as people travel to the waterfront. They are encouraging everyone to take public transportation, which will be ramped up to accommodate the expected crowds.
“Sail Boston is going to be a wonderful weekend and series of days for family and friends to come into Boston; it’s not going to be a great time to drive into town,” said state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack.
“The message we want to convey to people is that the T is ready to give everyone who wants to come to Sail Boston the transportation they need to come to all events,” she added.
There will be extra service on the commuter rail on Saturday as well as shuttles to take people directly from commuter stations to the viewing areas.
For more information about transportation and possible road closures, check out boston.gov/sailboston.
Here are the prohibited and allowed items for Sail Boston, according to the state police:
Backpacks or large bags
Coolers on wheels
Firearms, weapons, sharp objects or fireworks
Pop-up tents or canopies
Cans, glass containers, premixed beverages or alcoholic beverages
Wagons or pull carts
Pets (excluding certified service animals)
Grills, propane tanks or open flames
Bicycles (bicycle parking will be available outside most screening areas)
Small clutch purses/bags (that are easily searchable)
Shoulder strap or single handle coolers
Diaper bags (that are easily searchable)
Glass baby bottles
Blankets or tarps (max size 10 feet by 10 feet)