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NYPD promises strong security for New Year's Eve

Officer Rachel Cresswell patrols Times Square on Tuesday,

Officer Rachel Cresswell patrols Times Square on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2009. The NYPD is preparing for large New Year's Eve crowds. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

The NYPD's standing assumption, in Police Commissioner Ray Kelly's words, is that New York City is the "number one terrorist target in America," so thousands of people will celebrate New Year's Eve amid a strong police presence, rooftop snipers, heavily armed "Hercules teams," bomb searches and barricades.

Though the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack on a jet bound for Detroit is fresh in people's minds, that event did not change the department's security plans for revelry in Times Square, the Police Department's chief spokesman said.

"Nothing has come out of Detroit to say that we are going to be doing something different, other than that we are alert that al-Qaida wants to kill a lot of Americans," spokesman Paul Browne said Tuesday. "It's foremost in people's minds, but it's foremost in our minds every day."

The plan - what Kelly called a "full-fledged deployment of our resources" - includes use of the department's "Hercules teams," which are specially trained forces that carry automatic weapons, as well as police helicopters with infrared cameras and radioactivity-detecting boats. Authorities also will conduct radioactive air sampling and searches of surrounding area parking garages for bombs, Browne said.

Kelly, who gets daily briefings from his counterterrorism team, said at a news conference Monday he was "up to speed" on details of the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 by suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. He said the NYPD will "factor it in" to its New Year's Eve deployment.

"Every year, we try to change it a little bit so it's not totally predictable, but one thing you will be sure to see is a large number of uniformed police officers," he said.

To revelers, the mayor and police said this: Backpacks and booze must stay home.

"Don't bring booze, don't try to smoke a joint, don't act aggressively," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be on hand with his family. "We're all there to have a good time and obey the law, and if everybody does, we will be just fine."

Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman Aaron Donovan said MTA Police will increase security systemwide as is done every New Year's Eve, but not because of any recent terror concerns. The Long Island Rail Road will ban alcohol consumption on trains and at platforms from noon on New Year's Eve until noon Friday.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

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