Atlantic City police won’t miss one inch of the action when the Miss America parade comes home next month.
Cameras — and personnel — on loan from the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness will mean video coverage of the entire Boardwalk route, said Deputy Chief Henry White, incident commander for Miss America security.
At a news conference Tuesday, representatives for the city, tourism and the competition spoke about the collaborative plans for two weeks of activities that will begin with the contestants’ arrival next Tuesday. People are being discouraged from bringing large bags or coolers to the Boardwalk, and police remind people that bicycles are prohibited outside of the set hours.
“Public safety is paramount here,” Atlantic City Police Sgt. Monica McMenamin said. “Some things you’ll see, such as uniformed police officers, and lots of things you won’t see.”
The law enforcement effort combines federal, state, county and local entities, some of whom met Monday in a closed meeting with Miss America officials to discuss the plans.
“The expertise, professionalism and joint coordination displayed by our local, regional and state law enforcement and emergency management officials is truly impressive and has exceeded our expectations,” said Miss America Organization CEO Sam Haskell III. “Everything is planned to the finest detail.”
As many as 200,000 people are expected in town for the parade and Miss America competition, Haskell said.
The city is used to dealing with large crowds, White pointed out. But, with Miss America’s return home, they know the focus will be on whether Atlantic City can handle it.
All involved seem to think the city can.
“Since (Miss America) was here last, things have changed, so our plans have changed,” McMenamin said.
Planning started as soon as talk began of Miss America’s return. Then the Boston Marathon bombing happened in April.
Boston was a tragic lesson for law enforcement, said Capt. Tim Friel, who heads up investigations. “Now, it gives us an upper hand (in planning),” he said. “It’s the little things you learn to look for.”
Like the Boston Marathon, the parade route is an open venue that makes it difficult to regulate who can be there and what they can bring. While police are discouraging backpacks and large bags, there is no avenue for blocking people from getting onto the Boardwalk carrying one.
Bags will not be searched, but police urge anyone who sees suspicious activity to inform one of the many uniformed officers who will be onsite.
“We don’t need to remind people (to be vigilant),” said Lt. Doug Pierce, who is coordinating crowd control. “Boston is fresh in their minds.”
Unlike the last time the parade went down the Boardwalk, there will be 30,000 paid seats along the route this time, limiting where people can stand, set up beach chairs or — as has been tradition for some — follow along. Logistics are still sketchy on exactly how the additional seating will affect those trying to view the parade for free.
The city’s Bomb Squad — with help from the state Detect and Render Safe Task Force — will sweep the parade route and other undisclosed areas before the event, patrol it during the parade and then do another sweep after everything is done, explained Lt. Jerry Barnhart, who heads the city’s squad.
And while the parade will be well covered by law enforcement, Pierce stressed that the rest of the city will be taken care of as well.
Miss America weekend also includes the Seafood Festival and Atlantic City Triathlon, which will be covered by officers on details paid through the venues. The Miss America festivities, however, will be on regular and overtime.
"We're going to have a lot of tired cops at the end of the week," Pierce said.
Lt. Bridget Pierce, who will be in charge of security for the 53 contestants, will work her officers’ schedules around the events, in hopes of having it be part of their normal 40-hour workweek, rather than using too much overtime.
There will be uniform and undercover officers on the Boardwalk for the parade.
“We don’t want it to the point where it will look like a cop convention,” Doug Pierce said. “We don't want to put the parade in a shadow. They’re going to blend in.”
Casino cameras already facing the Boardwalk will be monitored by state Division of Gaming Enforcement officers, while the borrowed cameras will be under surveillance by those who normally run them.
A police command post will be set up inside Boardwalk Hall.
Sgt. Mary Grace Cooke is working with neighboring municipalities to provide bicycle and motorcycle officers who will accompany each of the participants down the two-mile parade route, as was the tradition before Miss America left Atlantic City in 2004.
Among those on hand will be several bomb technicians, equipment and explosives-sniffing dogs, many from the task force, although law enforcement leaders do not want to give specific numbers.
The K-9s will join Atlantic City’s own team of Officer James Miltenberger and his explosives K-9, Boomer. The two graduated from the K-9 academy June 21 and had more than 80 searches during this year’s airshow.
Those attending the Miss America festivities are being urged to use public transportation. Traffic will be handled by Lt. Ron Krause, who said the Traffic Unit — along with outside help — will handle the flow just like any other large event. The heavier corridors will be manned.
A meeting held Monday at Boardwalk Hall included members of the Miss America Organization, Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority President Jeff Vasser, representatives from the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office and heads of both the county and city Emergency Management offices.
“This has involved more unity than I’ve ever seen before in my 35 years as a police officer,” Public Safety Director Will Glass said as he left the meeting that Miss America officials asked be closed to the media.
“We can't stop everything, but we can minimize the potential and be prepared for any scenario,” White said. "It's a good, smart team that put together the plan to prepare for the pageant."
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