When the ball drops in Times Square Thursday to mark the new year, New York counterterrorism officials are exceedingly confident they won’t drop the ball.
Despite two large scale Islamic terror attacks on Western targets during the past two months – that killed 130 in Paris in November and 14 in San Bernardino this month – authorities say revelers have nothing to fear.
“New Year’s Eve in New York City will be the safest place in the world to be,” said Chief James Waters, head of the counterterrorism unit.
That sentiment was echoed by James O’Neill, chief of the counterterrorism department: “Leave the worrying to the NYPD.”
Officials say there is no credible threat to Times Square; however, terrorists rarely call their shot in advance of an attack.
"Leave the worrying to the NYPD."
- James O'Neill, chief of counterterrorism department
In an effort to install every deterrent possible, the NYPD is set to deploy at least 6,000 cops -- including heavily-armed personnel, rooftop patrols, bomb-sniffing dog handlers, a special counterterrorism unit and plainclothes officers -- in and around Times Square. That massive force will consist in part of the 1,200 officers who graduated on Tuesday. There will be about 600 to 800 more cops on patrol this New Year’s Eve than there were in 2014, the New York Post reported.
“On New Year's Eve, the department will be out in force,” NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday at a news conference in Times Square. “There will be a tremendous number of officers you will see and many you won't see.”
With about 1 million people expected to pack midtown for the festivities, the public numbers suggest a ratio of one officer per every 166 civilians.
Officials, drawing in part on vulnerabilities exposed through previous terror attacks, also have several enforcement mechanisms in place.
Partiers will be screened with hand-held metal detectors twice -- once when entering one of the 14 access points to the “secure zone” and again when they enter “pens” where people will be kept during the leadup to the countdown.
Newspaper vending machines and trash cans will be removed on Broadway and Seventh Avenue from 34th to 59th streets, according to The Journal News. That precaution is a possible nod to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, in which two Islamist brothers hid pressure cooker bombs in trash cans that exploded near the marathon’s finish line.
Chemical and radiation detectors will be deployed and manhole covers will be sealed from 41st to 50th streets between Sixth Avenue and Eighth Avenue, The Journal News reported.
Said Police Commissioner Bill Bratton: “We believe we are as prepared as anybody can be.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.