Major cities across the globe are bolstering security around New Year’s Eve celebrations, with some U.S. law enforcement agencies taking extra precautions to protect against the sort of deadly truck attacks carried out in Germany and France this year.
New York City officials announced Thursday they will deploy 65 sanitation and salt trucks around the perimeter of Times Square, a new security measure aimed at making it more difficult for an attacker to barrel a vehicle into a crowd. The city will also dispatch 100 lighter “blocker trucks” in the area for an added layer of protection for the festivities, which are expected to draw more than 1 million revelers.
The New York City Police Department said there are no known credible threats to this year’s celebration. But a joint bulletin issued last week by the NYPD, FBI and Department of Homeland Security underscored that law enforcement remains “concerned about unaffiliated lone offenders and homegrown violent extremists targeting the event.”
The Germany attack, in which a Tunisian man is charged with plowing a stolen truck into a crowd in Berlin, killing 12, as well as a similar deadly truck attack on Bastille Day in Nice, France, that killed 86, is the sort of low-tech attack that law enforcement officials have become increasingly wary of Islamic State sympathizers trying to carry out on U.S. soil.
Last month, a young Somali refugee drove a car into a crowd on the Ohio State University campus before jumping out of the vehicle and attacking victims with a knife. No one suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack, and the suspect was fatally wounded by a police officer. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in Berlin, Nice and Columbus.
“As we formulated this year’s plan, we paid close attention to world events and we learned from those events,” said NYPD Chief Carlos Gomez. “And this year due to the terrorist attacks in Nice, France, and in Berlin, Germany, we’ve enhanced our security measures.”
About 7,000 NYPD officers will be deployed to guard Times Square festivities, roughly 1,000 more than last year, Gomez said. It’s the second straight year New York is significantly increasing its police presence for the highest profile New Year’s Eve celebration in the country. NYPD brass increased the number of officers patrolling the streets last year because of heightened concern worldwide following terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., in late 2015.
New York joins other major world cities, including London, Madrid and Melbourne that have announced plans to step up security around this year's celebrations.
In London, the Metropolitan Police said Thursday it will deploy armed officers on London Underground trains for the first time after the department reviewed security plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations, Sky News reported.
Melbourne police officials said revelers will notice increased security this year, while law enforcement in Madrid said that for the first time it would limit the number of people allowed into the Puerta del Sol square, where tens of thousands gather at midnight to take part in the tradition of eating 12 grapes to ring in the New Year, El Pais reported.
Like New York City, New Orleans officials also announced they will dispatch heavy trucks to blockade much of Bourbon Street, where hundreds of thousands revelers are expected to ring in the New Year.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced this week that the iconic street will be cut off from vehicular traffic and revelers will see officers in tactical gear during New Year’s celebrations and during Sugar Bowl festivities Jan. 2. The city also added security cameras as part of its increased measures.
“New Orleans has its own special culture and we want to secure the city, but we don't want to turn it into a militarized zone,” Landrieu told reporters. “I think law enforcement agencies, really across the world, are struggling with this. We’re going to have individuals with tactical outfits on. This is the first time you're going to see this in the city.”
In Boston, the police department says it has stepped up security since the Berlin attack, placing barriers around the perimeter of its popular holiday market and increasing patrols around religious institutions. On Thursday, Boston officials said they had no credible information of a terrorist threat but asked the public to remain vigilant as the New Year approaches.
"It's sad that we have to do this type of stuff, but it's a reality of what's happening now in the world," said Police Commissioner William Evans.