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NYPD: Sand-filled trucks, other obstacles to terror set for parade

Charlie Brown flies at Macy's Balloonfest in preparation

Charlie Brown flies at Macy's Balloonfest in preparation for the 90th Anniversary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade at Citi Field on November 5, 2016 in New York City. Credit: Getty Images for Macy's Parade / Dave Kotinsky

Close to 100 sand-filled trucks and more than 3,000 uniformed officers, along with a full complement of anti-terrorism police, will provide security for this year’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, police officials said.

The NYPD is “more than up to the task” of handling security on Thanksgiving, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said Wednesday on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC.

“There’s no specific or credible threat against the parade, but there is some rhetoric we are watching,” referring to an ISIS magazine referencing the parade as a target.

In a briefing with reporters Tuesday, O’Neill and his top commanders said this year’s parade security will be supplemented by Critical Response Command officers, who are trained in heavy weapons and counterterrorism tactics.

An added touch will be the presence of “vapor wake” dogs, specially trained canines who can follow an explosive package through a crowd, said Chief James Waters, head of the NYPD counterterrorism unit.

“They can work a large crowded area,” Waters said of the dogs.

Since the truck attack in Nice, France, on Bastille Day, which killed nearly 90 people, the NYPD has increased its use of blocker vehicles. Comprised of sand-filled trucks and other heavy apparatus, the vehicles will serve to cut off any attempt by a truck or car to breach the parade route and cause death and havoc, police said. As an added precaution, there will be no cross street access through the parade route, officials said.

“We didn’t need anything else to clue us in that the Nice attack was an indicator of something we had to make adjustments because of, and changes,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a separate news briefing. “That’s why the sand trucks are there. And you will not see vehicles crossing the route of the parade.”

The parade comes against the backdrop of the arrest of a Brooklyn man Monday on charges he wanted to join ISIS and talked to an undercover operative about using a truck to attack Times Square.

Asked about whether the NYPD was satisfied with the vetting done by Macy’s, the parade sponsor, to check the backgrounds of balloon handlers and floater drivers, Waters replied, “We are comfortable with Macy’s’ process.”

Another safety concern for the parade is the weather, which could include rain and wind. To guard against balloons being pushed out of control by winds, police along the parade route will be using anemometers to check wind speeds. If high winds are detected, the balloon handlers will shorten the length of the guide lines, O’Neill said.

While thousands of uniformed cops will be on the parade route, other plainclothes officers will monitor the crowd and using radiation detectors to watch out for radiological devices.

NYPD intelligence Chief John Miller said a recent report about a threat against the city subway system was a hoax.

“This is a kind of viral internet hoax, that is all there is to it,” Miller said. “There is nothing that even comes into the ballpark.

With Matthew Chayes

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