A year since the bomb — Seaside charity run returns with added security
SEASIDE HEIGHTS — Security at a military charity race on Sept. 16 will quadruple the safeguards in place at last year's event where a bomb exploded inside a trash can along the route.
Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas Boyd says federal, county and local law enforcement will be on the clock for the Semper Five Marine Corps Charity 5K, which moves from Seaside Park to Heights for 2017.
"We took it to a whole other level because we certainly don't want anything happening like it did last year. So we're going to do our darndest to keep these people safe," Boyd said.
Due to an overflow of registering participants at the race last year, the start time was delayed. If the race had started on time, runners and walkers likely would have been in the area of the bomb on D Street and Ocean Avenue.
The man alleged to have planted the bomb is also facing charges for an explosive that injured dozens of people in New York City the same weekend. Other discovered devices, allegedly constructed by the same man — Ahmad Khan Rahimi — did not go off.
Drones, night vision and undercover officers are all part of the plan for this year's event. Boyd said law enforcement must be vigilant days ahead of the race as well.
"We're not taking any chances," he said. "I'm very, very confident that it's going to go off safely, but at the same time you can't let your guard down."
Digital blueprints of the entire route, divided into grid squares to make for easier communication and navigation, will be available to law enforcement. The technology has been adopted by a number of schools in Ocean County to get a leg up on active shooters and other emergencies.
"We'll be able to see all our assets throughout the whole area," said Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato at an event announcing the county's purchase of the unique service.
The fourth-annual charity race is expected to host more participants than ever before, and that's the main reason for the shift to Seaside Heights, said race director Frank Costello.
"We said right away we want to come back bigger and stronger," Costello said. "I think the people that are coming this year have the same thought."
Almost two-thirds of the race registrants so far are from outside Ocean County. About 15 percent live outside New Jersey.
As an extra precaution, the 5K route will not be publicized ahead of race day — September 16.
A World War II veteran is marking the start of this year's race, Costello said. The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan is setting up its own course, as it's done in the past, to compete with teams here.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.