NEW YORK – Police officials in New York are closely studying the Mumbai terror attack, even sending three investigators to India for clues on what happened and how to better protect the city's own landmark hotels.
The New York Police Department spelled out some of their findings and recommendations for tighter hotel security on Friday at a conference for scores of private security officials.
"In many ways, the city of Mumbai bears striking similarities to New York," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told the audience at police headquarters. "It is the country's financial capital, a densely populated, multicultural metropolis and a hub for the media and entertainment industries. All of those features make it a compelling target."
The attacks, Kelly added, also "represent a shift in tactics toward low-tech weaponry and a coordinated effort by a small group of men.
The deployment of officers to Mumbai is part of a program that began after Sept. 11, 2001 in which the nation's largest police department began posting counterterrorism officers in Singapore, Madrid and other large cities to trade information with police there about security and potential threats. The officers also have been dispatched to the scenes of overseas terror attacks to speed access to evidence that could help deter strikes against the city.
Speaking by phone from India, one of the NYPD investigators, Capt. Brandon Del Pozo, told the conference his own ballistics analysis showed they fired their assault rifles in precise, three-round bursts. They also used military-style "shoot and scoot" tactics.
The gunmen "were clearly trained in the use of these weapons and fired them in a controlled manner," the officer said.
He said police and security forces in Mumbai were caught off-guard and outgunned: Of the 50 police officers on duty at a train station where gunfire erupted, only half had guns. The lone security guard at a targeted Jewish center was unarmed and ran for his life.
"And they haven't seen him since," Del Pozo said.
Thanks to meticulous planning, the attackers knew the layouts of the hotels they struck far better than the officers sent to root them out, he said.
"The bad guys had a great tactical advantage," he said.
NYPD officials also said the men involved in the Mumbai siege were juiced up on amphetamines and steroids, apparently to stay alert and withstand the siege.
The NYPD officials advised the hotels to train their staffs to be on the lookout for anyone loitering in lobbies or guest floors. They also recommended being suspicious of guests booking unusually long stays — a sign someone may be using a room as staging area for conducting extensive surveillance or storing weapons.
The security officials also were urged to never hesitate to contact police. They cited an incident where a Manhattan hotel didn't initially report that an unruly man with a backpack barged into the lobby on Thanksgiving.
The man entered two other hotels before police found him and determined he was mentally disturbed and homeless.