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Editorial: New York's lessons in fight against terror

The flag of Boston flies at half mast

The flag of Boston flies at half mast at City Hall on Tuesday in Manhattan. Two bombs that exploded near the finish line at the Boston Marathon yesterday, killing three people and wounding more than 170. (April 16, 2013) Credit: Charles Eckert

Now comes the hard part for Boston. The city has dead to mourn and scores of injured to attend to. Federal agents and local police have at least one dangerous criminal to find and probably more. Then there's the great, lively city that must be hardened against terrorism in a way it has never been before.

As New Yorkers, we know how tough and sensitive this task can be. Our region has been wrestling with it for more than a decade. The keys to success?

Ample resources help. In New York, the effort has not exactly been stingy. The city has assigned more than 1,000 police officers to counterterrorism duties, and it recently expanded the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative -- an intensified antiterrorism program -- into midtown. The goal is to have police officers looking for abnormalities in neighborhood rhythms as they monitor everything that moves in the streets and on the sidewalks.

But avoid Big Brother tactics. Students need to get to class, commuters need to clock in on time, tourists need to tour and shoppers need to shop. Official overzealousness could wreck the program in a flash. Yet so could a lapse that allows another terrorist attack. Balance and sound judgment are everything in this game. While police have a responsibility to exercise restraint and wisdom, citizens have a duty not to make the jobs of law enforcers harder. Reason and cooperation are essential.

The good guys need to cooperate. NYPD antiterrorism officers have clashed in recent years with the federal Joint Terrorism Task Force -- often over the strength of specific criminal cases. Such rivalries can be a harmful distraction.

Remember that it can always happen here. As Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted yesterday, the Boston bombings -- with pressure-cooker devices that sent shrapnel flying into marathon runners and spectators -- are a "terrible reminder" of why New York City and its suburbs have invested so heavily in camera technologies and other street-smart approaches.

And then? Hope for good luck. Against terrorism, no strategy is a sure winner. No technology is foolproof. At some point we can only cross our fingers and carry on.