NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York City officials said Tuesday that this year’s New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square will be the safest place in the world — heavily secured by thousands of officers, including a new specialized counterterrorism unit.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, the New Year’s Eve countdown will begin well before nightfall for anyone planning to visit Midtown between 38th Street and Central Park South and between Sixth and Eighth avenues.
“While the program for the evening officially begins at 6, streets will start getting closes as early as 4 a.m. (Thursday),” said NYPD Chief of Department James O’Neill.
Plans for the city’s biggest draw started just as the last pieces of confetti fell on Jan. 1 of this year. This year marks the debut for the new critical response command — more than 500 officers specifically chosen and trained to work full time on counter terrorism.
“We believe we are as prepared as anybody can be,” police Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a press conference held on Tuesday.
The NYPD said their presence on New Year’s Eve will be highly visible.
“We’ll have over 5,000 officers assigned to Times Square. There’ll be hundreds of traffic agents, plus additional mobile cameras, chemical and radiation detectors; specially trained police dogs sniffing for traces of explosives, cops on horsebacks, helicopters, and police boats,” O’Neill said.
Rooftop patrols will also keep an eye on the crowd, and plainclothes officers will blend in with revelers.
“There will be a tremendous number of officers who you will see, there will be many officers you won’t see,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “There will be obvious security measures you will see, and a number of measures you won’t see.”
Police will carefully screen people with hand held magnetometers as they enter through one of 14 access points to the 65 large spectator pens. They will also be using enhanced security cameras.
Once participants are granted access to one of the event’s 65 pens, they must remain in their spot until midnight, or they will lose their spot, 1010 WINS Roger Stern reported.
“We are very, very confident that New Year’s Eve in New York City will be the safest place in the world to be,” said NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters.
NYPD officials said they have been monitoring information with the FBI, and said there are no threats against any New Year’s Eve events in the city.
“We are not aware of any threat at this time that we deem credible,” Bratton said.
But with recent terrors attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino, California, security is still top priority to many who will be celebrating in Times Square. They are trusting in the NYPD to keep them safe.
“It’s always in the back of your mind – you know, a major event like this — but overall, I feel great, no problems at all really,” said Mark Wardell of Manchester, England. “So yeah, looking forward to it.”
About 1 million people are expected to come in to watch the 11,875-pound Waterford crystal ball drop.
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