The Bristol Police Department is hoping to keep everything as normal as possible for the thousands of visitors streaming into Bristol by car, bike or boat next Thursday morning. But behind the scenes, things won’t be “normal.” Security measures are changing after terrorists bombed the Boston Marathon two months ago.
Like the marathon, Bristol’s parade extends for miles in an open environment with thousands of people in tight, public spaces along sidewalks, storefronts and homes.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) along with other federal and state agencies have already hit the streets of Bristol to beef up the town’s security. FBI agents, for instance, have visited businesses to coach owners, managers and employees to be on the lookout for questionable activity. Local merchants are being canvassed to determine who has store surveillance cameras.
More officers have been stationed throughout the concert series at Independence Park than in recent years. And gone are the typical trash barrels from Fourth of July venues, replaced by clear, plastic bags.
“It’s a multi-jurisdictional effort,” said Police Chief Josue Canario. “I’m very happy with the state and federal agencies. They stepped up without hesitation.”
These agencies have been involved in Fourth of July planning from a perspective of mass casualty prevention and response, while other committees have been involved in the more pleasant activities such as concerts, the parade and fireworks.
Assisting Bristol police officers are Rhode Island state marshals, the Providence Police Department’s bomb-sniffing dog, all well as the FBI. Their presence, along with cooperation from local businesses and residents, are not meant to be intrusive, but to be thorough, ensuring there are many eyes watching for suspicious activities, said the chief.
“We live in a little different world now. We want everyone to be vigilant,” Chief Canario said. “If you see something suspicious, we want you to contact the police.”
Despite the involvement of other units, the Bristol Police Department remains the lead agency for Fourth of July Celebration security.
Chief Canario said there will be no mandatory inspection of bags or coolers, like you would typically find at sports stadiums and other venues. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t inspect bags.
“If there is a reason for us to do that, we’re not going to be bashful. Our goal is not to violate anyone’s rights, our goal is to keep people safe,” he said.
For security reasons, Chief Canario did not say how many officers will be working in uniform or undercover throughout the Fourth of July celebration.
“There are a lot of them,” he said.
Police said that no specific threats to the parade or festivities would lead them to suspect Bristol will be a target of terrorist activity. However, as a matter of precaution, Chief Canario feels confident that the personnel involved have “left no stone unturned,” allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the celebration.
The flyers distributed to local businesses note that any use of fireworks along the parade route is not allowed and should be reported to police.