Law enforcement ready for 'iconic' July 4th celebration

 Sam Doran File Photo / SHNS  This Thursday marks the 45th annual Boston Pops fireworks spectacular. 

BOSTON – Law enforcement will operate at a "heightened alert posture" for the Independence Day celebrations planned for the Charles River Esplanade this week and authorities have imposed strict restrictions on drone use, a state public safety official said Tuesday.

There are no specific or credible threats against the Fourth of July fireworks display and Boston Pops concert, Undersecretary of Public Safety and Security Jeanne Benincasa Thorpe said at a press conference at the Hatch Memorial Shell, but law enforcement will nonetheless remain on high alert.

"Our shared goal is to maximize security and to minimize the threats for visitors, staff and the musical program. We also want to promote a fun, friendly, family atmosphere. This is a major event from a public safety perspective, but first and foremost as the governor mentioned, it's a celebration," the undersecretary said. "Let's make sure that we stay safe, successful and have a terrific event."

Massachusetts State Police will have a large uniformed presence at the Esplanade, including troopers walking foot patrols, riding bicycles, driving motorcycles and on horseback. The MSP marine unit will monitor public safety from the Charles River and the agency's Air Wing helicopter unit will be overhead.

The State Police will also have a large plainclothes presence at the Esplanade, Benincasa Thorpe said, including troopers with training intended specifically to "spot behavioral signs and indicators associated with potential threats and bad actors."

"Whether you see them or not, these folks have one mission: to protect everyone's safety," she said.

Representatives from the State Police, Transit Police, Boston Police, Boston EMS and other state and local public safety agencies held a press conference Tuesday morning to announce traffic plans, restrictions on guests at the Esplanade and to encourage guests to keep an eye on their surroundings at all times.

"Follow the directions, do the things that are prescribed for all of you in advance of this show, come and enjoy this show and let's make sure this is another wonderful, safe, celebratory moment here in the cradle of liberty at this iconic Hatch Shell to celebrate, once again, American independence," Gov. Charlie Baker said.

At the press conference, public safety officials detailed road closures around the Esplanade, points of access for the events, items prohibited from the events, guidelines for boating on the Charles River and other public safety information.

Baker remarked at the fact that this Thursday's show will be the 45th Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular and noted how much work from a wide array of agencies goes into making the production -- from the concert and fireworks display to the logistics of getting thousands of people safely on and off the Esplanade -- a success.

"Over the course of that 45-year period, I think it's fair to say, this has become an iconic event and it's also become one that everyone who's involved ... takes extremely seriously and there is a tremendous amount of work that goes into making sure that this is the safe, fun and enjoyable event that it's supposed to be," the governor said.

As in year's past, federal air traffic controllers have imposed a temporary flight restriction on the use of any unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, near the Esplanade on July 3 and 4.

"The use of civilian drones in the area surrounding the Esplanade will be illegal and could expose the operator to the drone to state and federal charges," Benincasa Thorpe said. "It's very important for the public to understand that."

Earlier this year, a drone illegally hovered over right field at Fenway Park during a Boston Red Sox game, drawing the ire of the Federal Aviation Administration and Boston Police.

Once the celebration is over late Thursday night, the Department of Conservation and Recreation will immediately get to work "to returning this vibrant space back into its natural splendor," Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Kathleen Theoharides said.