Rhode Island’s oldest footrace takes new steps for security
Extra security measures were taken on Saturday during the Gaspee Day 5K. These came in response to added precautions for “soft targets” implemented in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings carried out with a precautionary mindset.
Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen M. McCartney said, “There was no information to suggest terrorist activity, but we were on the watch for it.”
This watch included collaboration with the Cranston Police Department. According to McCartney, there was an undercover officer stationed at the areas of largest crowd numbers charged with monitoring suspicious activity. Uniformed officers were assigned in sections observing individual portions of the crowd. In addition, there was a contingency response plan that included a special operations component. All the officers marching in the parade had a contingency response plan of their own.
Prior to the annual 5K, there was planning that included an intelligence annex that briefed officers on any persons of interest who may have expressed or had violent histories. The 48th annual race had record numbers registered this year at 1,300. According to the Gaspee Days Committee, the race is the state’s oldest ongoing race.
The intent was to have everything go off without an incident and to have everyone enjoy themselves with minimal intrusion from the police.
Tim Ashton of Rumford, a runner in the 5K, shared his thoughts on the safety of the day and how it plays a role in running the race. He said prior to race day, runners discuss the potential safety of an event on a website known as “Cool Runnings.” According to Ashton, runners like to know what they are getting themselves into beforehand and make their decision based on what they hear. Ashton also said that for him and other runners, the crowd plays a key role in their running.
“Without the crowd, running is nothing,” he said. “When the crowd is cheering and people are into it, it gives you the momentum you’re looking for.”
He said this year’s crowd felt safe and participation was better than last year.
Along the route, Ashton noticed “at least four dogs” in reference to any added security he saw this year as compared to last.
Carol Deming, president of the Gaspee Days Committee, reflected on the security efforts.
“Basically, Warwick Police handled all of that,” she said.
The committee met regularly with the police to discuss police details, road closings and other basic traffic matters. This year, one month after the meeting, the Warwick Police contacted the committee about extra security.
Deming and her fellow members relied on police expertise. “You tell us if we need to do anything differently,” Deming said.
They were told to proceed as usual.
Neither Deming nor her committee members knew of any of the details. She acknowledged the hard work of the police and praised them, saying, “They did a great job. They did a fantastic job.”