Security intense at Times Square for New Year's Eve celebration
NEW YORK — When revelers pack Times Square for the annual New Year's Eve celebration on Monday night, police will observe a tradition of their own: giving them lots of company.
Each year, the New York Police Department assigns thousands of extra patrols to festivities to control the crowd and watch for any signs of trouble. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are expected to pack into Midtown Manhattan to see the crystal ball drop and ring in 2013.
“We think it's the safest place in the world on New Year's Eve,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Security in Times Square has become an obsession for the NYPD in the post-9/11 world, especially since the botched attempted car bombing there in the summer of 2010.
“Times Square is an iconic location that draws a significant number of people every day,” Kelly said. “New Year's Eve is the apex of that, so we have to plan accordingly.”
Kelly stressed that there are no specific threats related to a celebration televised across the globe. But believing that the so-called “Crossroads of the World” is always in the crosshairs of would-be terrorists, the nation's largest police department has turned securing the event into a science.
Hotels are a particular concern. The department has worked closely with managers, urging them to guard against anyone who might seek to check into a guest room and use it for a sniper attack.
In terms of crowd control, police noticed last year that revelers starting flocking to Times Square earlier in the day to hear rehearsals of performers scheduled for various telecasts. So this year, the department will adjust by posting more officers on the streets before nightfall, Kelly said.
Along with the army of additional uniformed officers, police will use barriers to prevent overcrowding and for checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags. Visitors will see bomb-sniffing dogs and heavily armed counterterrorism teams. Rooftop patrols and police helicopters will keep an eye on the crowd as well.
Other plainclothes officers are assigned to blend into the crowd. Many officers will be wearing palm-size radiation detectors designed to give off a signal if they detect evidence of a dirty bomb, an explosive intended to spread panic by creating a radioactive cloud.
The bomb squad and another unit specializing in chemical and biological threats will sweep hotels, theaters, construction sites and parking garages. They will patrol the Times Square subway station.
The NYPD will rely on a network of thousands of closed-circuit security cameras carpeting the roughly 1.7 square miles south of Canal Street, the subway system and parts of Midtown.
Another annual practice: Sealing manhole covers and removing mailboxes to prevent anyone from using them to conceal an explosive or other device.