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Officials ramp up security for Super Bowl XLVIII

A police vehicle sits near a mechanical barricade

A police vehicle sits near a mechanical barricade blocking a street near the World Trade center site. (Jan. 9, 2014) Credit: AP

The roughly seven miles between MetLife Stadium and Manhattan mean nothing to the NYPD as it prepares security measures for a series of events leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII.

The game itself takes place behind a massive security cordon involving more than 4,000 personnel working with federal and state agencies, and New York City has a greater challenge monitoring and securing many pregame and game-day venues scattered around the five boroughs.

Additionally, some officials have estimated up to 500,000 people are expected to crowd the Big Apple for the game and all the events planned.

"In New York City, we will have more than 26 events, including Super Bowl Boulevard from 34th to 47th streets along Broadway," NYPD Bureau Chief James Waters said in a recent news conference, adding that hotels will also be crowded and hosting groups, players' families and the media. "We are accustomed to large events and we are ready to respond."

For November's New York City Marathon, the NYPD took a close look at the Boston Marathon bombing of last April and decided to screen every runner at the New York event, he said.

"We deployed more explosive detection canine dogs and a robust counterterrorism overlay," Waters said, referring to the NYPD intelligence and threat analysis operations used for the race. Those measures will again be applied for Super Bowl week.

Policing efforts will be either readily apparent, as shown by the large numbers of uniformed officers out on the street, or more secretive counterterrorism operations dealing with intelligence analysis and threat assessment.

In the post-Sept. 11 world and with New York City seen as the prime target for terrorism, law enforcement has over the years developed a multilayered approach for the security of large events such as the Times Square New Year's Eve celebration.

Tens of millions of dollars in special Securing the Cities funding has come from the federal government over the past years for the purchase of radiation-detection equipment and other devices to prevent a nuclear, radiological or chemical incident. The equipment includes handheld radiation detectors used by individual cops and more bulky devices on police boats and aircraft.

The Port Authority and Metropolitan Transportation Authority are coordinating with NYPD for security in the city, as well as at the game.

Law enforcement officials so far know of no specific threat to the Super Bowl or New York City. But in a world where al-Qaida sympathizers have shown a desire to strike here and elsewhere, intelligence has to be continually assessed, officials said.

"We have been staying on top of the intelligence community to see if there are any threats toward this city or the event," NYPD chief of department Philip Banks said recently.

One of the biggest crowd draws and biggest security challenges for the NYPD will be the Super Bowl Boulevard, an outdoor urban theme park that will operate from Jan. 29 through Feb. 1, from noon to 10 p.m. It will take over a 13-block stretch of Broadway between 34th and 47th streets.

Many public-protection measures being used in the city on a daily basis will also be deployed for Super Bowl week, NYPD Insp. John O'Connell told security experts in a special briefing in December.

Those efforts include special armed NYPD Hercules teams fitted with heavy weapons designed to deter and fight any attacks, fleets of critical response vehicles, canine teams and the special radiation detectors, noted O'Connell, who is with the NYPD counterterrorism bureau.

The Lower Manhattan Security Initiative is a post-Sept. 11 system integrating thousands of closed-circuit and surveillance cameras into a central monitoring facility. After the May 2010 attempt to bomb Times Square by Faisal Shahzad, camera systems in the midtown area were linked to the LMSI.

Police will supplement the Lower Manhattan initiative with enhanced closed-circuit television coverage for Super Bowl Boulevard, O'Connell said.

Banks, the NYPD's top uniformed officer, said the force's experts talked with police in New Orleans, the site of last year's Super Bowl, and other cities that have hosted the big game to learn from their experiences.

Perhaps the most critical part of preparation for the NYPD has been a series of "what if exercises," as Banks called them, to prepare police brass and first responders for various possibilities. "We are relatively confident that everything will go fine," Banks said. "At this point, we are looking well and running on all cylinders to make sure we have a very safe and successful Super Bowl."

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