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Post-Bin Laden nerves lead to rise in false alarms


amny Photo Credit: amNY Photo Illustration

In the week since Osama Bin Laden was killed, nervous people from New York to California have been running to authorities with reports of “suspicious activity.”

In New Jersey, a 20-year-old walking on train tracks from New York City early Sunday stirred fears he may have left a bomb underground. The NYPD bomb squad inspected an SUV in the Bronx Sunday night. And two imams Friday were removed from a plane in Memphis after a pilot reportedly asked they undergo additional security screenings.

“We live in a dangerous world,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said in a news conference Monday, "but we're doing more than any other city anywhere to protect ourselves.”

Since Bin Laden’s death, reports of suspicious activity have increased, the city says. Not surprising considering a report that the former al-Qaida leader was conceiving a rail attack on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

In the last week, there were an average of seven calls each day to 311 reporting suspicious packages, up from the average two. There was also an increase in calls about suspicious vehicles, with an average of nine calls per day, up from the average five. That doesn’t include any calls made to 911, or anyone tracking down a cop or subway station agent. A request to the NYPD for those records was not answered Monday night.

Maria Haberfeld, professor of police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it makes sense that people are being more alert.

"When you have a high-profile event and the capturing of a high-profile terrorist, people become much more conscious about their surroundings," Haberfeld said. "But after a few weeks, everything goes back to normal, so it's short-lived."

Monday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to quell any hesitance about riding the subway.

“The bottom line is I feel safe and you should feel safe going down there,” he said.

But that wasn’t enough to quash everyone’s fears. Gilbert Maldonado, a club lounge attendant from Queens Village, said the city’s “If you see something, say something” advertisements in the subway is “what scares [him] the most.”

“I don’t know what to look for and you don’t want to stereotype people,” Maldonado, 32, said. “I’m just crossing my fingers.”

(With Erik Ortiz and Sheila Anne Feeney)


68%: Percentage of people who think a terror attack is likely in the U.S. in the coming weeks

39%: Number of people who said it was likely when polled four years ago

94%: Percentage of people who say al-Qaida remains a threat to the U.S. since Bin Laden’s death

(Source: Pew Research Center poll, May 5-8)



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