TODAY   |  April 20, 2014

Police securing Boston ahead of marathon

Law enforcement officials are working around the clock to make sure the Boston Marathon is safe, employing a mobile command unit, double the number of plainclothes officers, more bomb-sniffing dogs and even robots. NBC News' Stephanie Gosk reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we do want to begin this morning with today's top story. the countdown to the boston marathon . since that deadly day last year law enforcement officials have worked around the clock preparing for this year's race and figuring out new ways to secure the 26.2-mile route. their eyes will be everywhere. stephanie gosk begins or coverage this morning from boston with that massive security effort. stephanie, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, lester. well, everyone's going to feel the extra security tomorrow. racers can't bring backpacks on the course. they're only allowed to wear little fanny packs. spectators have been told not to bring coolers and expect to go through metal detectors . there's some 40 check points along the course. all extra measures law enforcement say are just as much about putting people at ease as they are about the security. the mobile command unit for the massachusetts state police wasn't brought in for last year's marathon. but it will be up and running tomorrow.

>> we've had it upgraded. the technology is newer in here. the capability is obviously better. the communications are seamless.

>> reporter: video from police helicopters and more than 100 security cameras all along the 26.2 mile route can be instantly accessed on screens or laptops. the center will help local, state and federal agencies coordinate 3,500 uniformed and plain clothed members of law enforcement . that's double last year's number.

>> we're better prepared, better leaders because of our experience last year.

>> reporter: since the attack, the boston police department has invested heavily in its bomb unit. chris connolly and his team have more people and equipment. including a new nimble robot. an 85-pound kevlar blast suit.

>> no longer than 15 minutes .

>> reporter: 15 minutes . because you can't hold it up that long. the unit also got five more bomb sniffing dogs.

>> check. good girl.

>> reporter: on race day betty and bronson will be part of a 45- dog team from around the region.

>> we're going to be checking corrals. checking packages. checking anything that comes in the area.

>> reporter: law enforcement officials say they want to strike a balance between securing the race and maintaining the fun of the event.

>> it's near and dear to all the bostonians.

>> reporter: one pastime isn't going anywhere. hugs and kisses the runners get from the women of college. for these students brave enough to face the sweat, the decades old tradition lives on. law enforcement reiterate that it's impossible to completely secure the race. but they are actively encouraging people to come out here. i can tell you, the restaurants are packed. the hotel rooms are filled. it's going to be quite a crowd here tomorrow, lester.