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Security increased for Parkersburg races, parade

Chief: No known threats toward events

PARKERSBURG — Recent events in the nation and the world have led local authorities to step up security for today’s Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon and Homecoming parade, although there are no indications of any specific problems, Police Chief Joe Martin said.

“There (are) no known threats toward anything that’s going on this weekend,” he said. People “will definitely see more of a police presence.”

Martin said many agencies are involved in providing protection for the race, including the Wood County Sheriff’s Department, FBI in Charleston, West Virginia National Guard, West Virginia Fusion Center, Wood County 911 Center, West Virginia Department of Natural Resources and the West Virginia State Police.

In part because of a man who drove his car into a crowd of protesters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., last week, killing one person, and terrorist attacks involving vehicles used as weapons in Spain, the Parkersburg Public Works Department is being enlisted as well. They will be using heavy equipment to form barriers to keep vehicles out of pedestrian areas, Martin said.

“There will be dump trucks in specific locations, and their purpose will be … to prevent unauthorized vehicle access,” Mayor Tom Joyce said.

“Yes, there is a cost associated with that for the city, but our No. 1 priority … is public safety,” he said.

Even before the recent events, the Half Marathon drew a great deal of security. Martin said earlier there would be approximately 90 officers working security and traffic control.

“The Parkersburg Police will have a very noticeable presence during the Half Marathon,” he said. “Our main priority is to protect the race participants as well as those who will be watching the race. The goal is to provide a safe environment for everyone involved.”

Wood County Sheriff Steve Stephens said his department has “anywhere between six to eight deputies to work the race with each officer working approximately six hours.

“We work traffic control to areas assigned to us through mutual aid from the Parkersburg Police Department,” he said. “We work wherever Chief Martin needs us to be for the race.”

The race is led by a Parkersburg police vehicle.

“There will be a variety of staff working in different capacities during the race and at different locations along the race route,” Martin said. “Those include uniformed officers, motorcycle officers, bicycle officers, S.W.A.T. members, as well as plainclothes officers.”

Police officers working downtown allow traffic to move through when there is a break in racers going through intersections.

The wheelchair race is scheduled to begin at 7:50 a.m. with the Half Marathon start at 8 and the Two-Mile Race at 8:10.

Multiple roads will be closed this morning for the race, with the Juliana Street Bridge slated to be shut down at 6:30 a.m. and the Parkersburg-Belpre Bridge at 7:30. Martin noted the Memorial Bridge will be open and free of charge from 7 to 11 a.m.

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