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Police bike patrols helped keep the crowds peaceful after the Red Sox victory yesterday.
Police bike patrols helped keep the crowds peaceful after the Red Sox victory yesterday. (Justine Hunt / Globe Staff)

Streets calm after win, playoff clinch

Heavy security blankets Fenway

Under a glorious autumn sun, a well-behaved Fenway crowd yesterday celebrated the Red Sox playoff-clinching win over the New York Yankees, the streets around the ballpark kept sedate and orderly by a massive police presence.

With memories of last October's lethal postgame rioting still fresh, police -- in riot gear, on mountain bikes, on horseback -- blanketed Fenway all day, a strategy police officials vowed to replicate as the Red Sox proceed into the postseason.

Though the game began with do-or-die drama, events conspired to reduce much of the tension: The Cleveland Indians lost by midway through the game, guaranteeing the Red Sox a playoff berth. Soon, with the Red Sox far ahead, both sides pulled star players from the game and fans left early in droves.

Less than an hour after the game, police opened Brookline Avenue to traffic, and two dozen riot-gear-clad troopers left Kenmore Square. Around 6:45 p.m., street cleaners emerged to clear away the day's debris. By 7 p.m., police were gone, the steets around Fenway empty and dark.

But throughout the game, law enforcement presence was heavy inside and outside the stadium.

Two dozen officers on mountain bikes watched fans file out of Fenway. A police helicopter circled above Kenmore Square. Officers on horseback rode down Brookline Avenue before stopping in formation at the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Beacon Street.

The display reminded fans of a violent time outside the ballpark: last year's dramatic comeback against the Yankees, when rioting after Game 7 of the American League Championship Series left Emerson College student Victoria Snelgrove dead, shot in the eye by a police pepper-pellet gun.

''I realize why they are here -- last year -- but it's quite a lineup here," said True Davis, 55, as he took pictures of police. ''Nothing's going to happen tonight. I feel safer, I'm sure everyone does."

Police officials expressed satisfaction with the effort.

''Things have gone well with the games over the weekend," said Sergeant Thomas Sexton, a Boston police spokesman. ''Each and every game is different, but during the day games there's more families and less time for drinking."

Sexton declined to be specific about the department's security strategy for the playoffs, but did say police officials have been planning for that possibility for some time. ''Boston police officers will be highly visible throughout the playoffs," he said.

An operational plan obtained by the Globe called for more than 870 officers to be deployed for each of the games over the weekend, more than double the 330 or so on the streets when Snelgrove was shot. The plan called for more than 300 of those officers to come from departments other than Boston police.

''We've all realized we can't do it by ourselves," said Edward Merrick, control chief of Metro-STAR SWAT team, a local law enforcement consortium that deployed 80 officers to the game yesterday. ''I think Boston decided it's better to spend a few extra dollars putting extra people out here rather than play catch-up."

Sexton also praised area universities for their efforts to reduce postgame student rowdiness. ''Northeastern students were selling T-shirts that said 'Real Students Don't Riot.' The communication between the police department and colleges -- it's working," he said.

Fans said they were happy to see a large police presence, though some said the use of riot gear was unfortunate.

''It's too bad it's here. It's the world we live in. I think we need them," said Andrew Bidgood, a season ticket holder from Atkinson, N.H., who had his 11-year-old and 15-year-old sons plus one of their friends with him. ''But I don't think they need to be in SWAT gear. They can be in regular uniform. Look at them, it's scary."

Yesterday's game began just after 2 p.m., which crime specialists said made policing Fenway easier.

''In nighttime games, there's a much longer drinking period leading up to the game," said James Alan Fox, a Northeastern criminal justice professor. ''The clientele going to day games is different than at night. Day games tend to draw more families."

Bonnie McGavick echoed this sentiment as she left the game in the seventh inning with her 9-year-old daughter, Molly. ''I was happy it was a day game. If it was a night game, we wouldn't have come," she said.

McGavick said she was surprised by how calm the atmosphere was after the game. She said she believes the fact that the Red Sox won in a blowout made things safer.

''Everyone is leaving gradually," she said. ''There's no mass exodus."

It's possible local crowds this postseason will be more sedate. Fox suggested success may have mellowed the Fenway faithful: ''Having won a championship takes away some of the frantic-ness of the fans."

Then again, fans already expressed jitters and hopes on the eve of tomorrow's playoff opener.

''We're going to win," said Brian Beaudry, 38, of Franklin, N.H. ''I can just feel it."

Globe correspondent Kristen Green contributed to this report.

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