As Montgomery County residents gather Thursday to celebrate America’s independence, some municipalities and police officials are focused on the security of large public events, mindful of April’s Boston Marathon bombing.
“With the tragedy that occurred during the Boston Marathon fresh in our minds, we take into consideration a variety of circumstances and plan both prevention and immediate response strategies,” Lucille Baur, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Police Department, wrote in an email.
The April 15 bombings killed three people and injured more than 250.
The county is scheduled to host two fireworks displays Thursday — at the SoccerPlex in the South Germantown Recreational Park and at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington.
Both fireworks displays are scheduled to begin around 9:15 p.m., with music beforehand.
County officers in uniform and in plain clothes will provide security and crowd control for county-sponsored fireworks; other law enforcement agencies will help, Baur said.
Baur said people attending the fireworks and other events should be aware of their surroundings.
“We also ask that those attending these events act responsibly and report any safety concerns or suspicious activity to an officer,” she said.
Especially since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, officials are always aware of the potential for danger at large public events, said Terry Treschuk, chief of the Rockville Police Department.
Rockville has many special events throughout the year, but the July 4 celebration requires more police and extra vigilance, he said.
Takoma Park Police Chief Alan Goldberg said police were aware, even before the Boston bombings, of the potential for such incidents at crowded public events.
Such gatherings are already an all-hands-on-deck situation for his department of about 40 sworn police officers and other staff, he said.
“Generally, for the Fourth of July, our whole department works anyway,” he said.
Along with asking the public to be alert and aware in helping to spot anything that looks suspicious, police throughout the Washington, D.C., metropolitan region work well together to share information they get, Treschuk said.
The Washington region is a high-profile target, and police throughout the area share any tips they come across, Gaithersburg City Manager Tony Tomasello said.
The city has discussed security at large outdoor events after the Boston bombings, Tomasello said. He didn’t want to discuss specifics.
Last year, Gaithersburg added mounted police officers from the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. Tomasello said the city would have several mounted officers again this year.
Because there’s so much traffic control at the event, almost every available police officer is already working, making it difficult to add officers to patrol, he said.
It’s also a fine line between ensuring safety and not wanting to have an event meant to celebrate freedom overwhelmed by police, he said. Maryland-National Capital Park Police will combine with Montgomery County police to provide security at the event in Germantown.
“Safety is always our top priority for public events in our parks,” acting Lt. Rick Pelicano of the Park Police said in a statement. “While we cannot reveal specifics of the security procedures, we do encourage patrons to report any suspicious issues they become aware of, and to bring as little as possible with them to the event and be sure not to leave backpacks and purses unattended.”
But while police already put a lot into events such as July 4, the Boston bombings reinforced the need for everyone to be particularly vigilant, said Takoma Park’s Goldberg.
“I think it just heightened awareness,” he said.