More cops, more bomb-sniffing dogs and more police snipers than ever are being deployed by the New York Police Department for New Year’s Eve to protect the 2 million spectators expected to cram Times Square to usher in 2018, department leaders said Thursday.
“People will be safe, and they should feel safe, too,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said at police headquarters in lower Manhattan.
Terence A. Monahan, the NYPD’s patrol chief, said that beginning at 11 a.m. Sunday, crosstown traffic would be shut from 37th to 59th streets and Sixth to Eighth avenues, and the area will be sealed off with concrete barriers, blocker cars and sand trucks. There will be truck restrictions on those avenues from 34th to 59th streets in effect at 11 a.m., he said.
To stop a suicide bomber from detonating an explosive like the one set off Dec. 11 under the Port Authority bus terminal, police officers will search celebrants twice, once when approaching the Times Square area, then again at each pen — with dogs trained to sniff air off a person’s body, by metal detectors and by officers who look through each person’s bags.
To avert a Las Vegas-style sniper shooting from above, NYPD officers are being assigned to every hotel in the Times Square area, and O’Neill hinted that the guest rosters are being scrutinized, but declined to elaborate.
And to block a vehicle-ramming attack like the rental truck on Halloween that killed pedestrians near the West Side Highway, sand-filled trash trucks are being parked at intersections near Times Square, with all 125 area garages ordered closed and sealed to protect from an exploding vehicle being parked inside.
James Waters, the NYPD’s head of counterterrorism, said that analysts are also monitoring online propaganda put out by groups like the Islamic State, and issuing bulletins to officers on how to identify and neutralize would-be suicide bombers.
O’Neill said he hopes that spectators would heed the post-9/11 counterterrorism adage “If you see something, say something.”
“As you’re coming to the event in the subway or you’re walking down the street, maybe not look at your phone, maybe take your headphones off and just pay attention to what’s going on around you,” O’Neill said, “and if you see something or someone that might look nervous or suspicious, just make sure you call 911 or grab a cop. There’s going to be thousands of cops in that area there.”
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