The NYPD will have thousands of extra cops, hundreds of radiation detectors and a fleet of helicopters on duty for Friday night's New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square and elsewhere in the city.
Although there is no specific terrorist threat against the city, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Thursday that the NYPD preparations come against a backdrop of a number of recent suspected terror incidents in Europe that included bombings in Rome at the Swiss and Chilean embassies.
"I think it will be a safe and happy event," said Kelly about the Times Square fete, the first one since the attempted Times Square bombing in May.
Newly minted rookie cops, who just graduated on Monday, will be pressed into duty. Officers will be assigned not only to Times Square but also to major subway, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road hubs in the city. Among them are Penn Station, Grand Central Terminal, Queens Plaza and Herald Square, said police spokesman Paul Browne.
The Times Square gathering is expected to draw about a million revelers. But it won't be a free-for-all on the streets as the crowd will be guided into gated pens. Police are also sealing manhole covers in and around the Times Square area, a usual practice, and will be enforcing a ban on backpacks and liquor, Browne said. Police will also be deploying special Skywatch towers, two-story-high observation platforms that allow officers to scan large areas. The towers are often used at big crowd events or in areas like parks when crime problems erupt. Higher in the air, the police aviation unit will have helicopters aloft.
As part of the NYPD's ramped-up counterterrorism stance, hundreds of officers will be wearing pager-sized personal radiation detectors, which sound an alarm if suspicious radioactivity is found. More powerful and sensitive detectors will also be carried in special trucks and on police harbor unit patrols, Browne said. Members of the federal-city Joint Terrorism Task Force will also be on duty, he noted.
In addition to the radiation detectors, the NYPD will also be deploying Biowatch devices that can sniff out biological contaminants, Browne said.
Although Times Square is getting much of the security attention, police are also being sent to a number of other New Year's events. Among them will be the large crowds expected to gather at the park under the Brooklyn Bridge to watch fireworks displays at the Statute of Liberty and in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, Browne said.
The NYPD has been monitoring recent terror events in Europe, where security forces have been steeling themselves for possible al-Qaida inspired attacks, but haven't found anything linked to the city.
"Nothing has surfaced at this time," Browne said.