NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As the final preparations for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade are underway, the NYPD is taking no changes in protecting one of the city’s biggest events.
As CBS2’s Tracee Carrasco reported, people were gathering late Wednesday to see the inflated balloons. Many were all ready to watch the parade on Thursday, and they did not have a second thought or worry about security.
“You can’t live your life that way,” one spectator said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said earlier that police will be doing everything in their power to make sure there indeed is nothing to worry about.
“The NYPD is ready tonight and certainly for tomorrow. Every year, we continue to perfect our operations, and the operations for the parade,” Mayor de Blasio said late Wednesday afternoon. “NYPD is going to mount an even stronger operation this year, and has been preparing for this literally since the end of last year’s parade.”
As CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez reported, more than 3,000 police officers – many of them heavily armed, both seen and unseen – will be lining the parade route Thursday morning. Many were already in place late Wednesday as organizers prepared for the main event.
“We were actually walking around last night and they’re everywhere,” said tourist Katrina Erdos. “It just makes you feel really safe and secure.”
Police said there are no credible threats targeting the parade or New York City. But they are also taking precautions that have never done before.
A total of 82 city sanitation trucks filled with sand and salt will be used at intersections and other strategic spots along the parade route to create an imposing physical barrier to terror. The trucks weigh about 16 tons empty and up to twice that with sand.
The sand trucks will prevent crosstown traffic from getting anywhere on east-west streets from 77th Street south to 34th Street. There will also be 114 blocker cars set up, police Commissioner James O’Neill said at the late Wednesday afternoon news conference.
“You can ram a New York City Sanitation Department sand truck with a lot of things, but you’re not going to move it,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counter-terrorism John Miller.
While the trucks have been used like this before, most recently to protect Trump Tower, police say they will play a bigger role at this year’s parade in the wake of the Bastille Day cargo truck attack in Nice, France, that killed more than 80 people, as well as a recent posting in an English-language Islamic State magazine that called the parade “an excellent target.”
“There is no specific, credible threat against the parade, but there has been some rhetoric that we have been watching,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said Wednesday on MSNBC.
But authorities have repeatedly urged spectators to not stay away. Miller said that while such postings are psychological warfare intended to spread a message of fear, “We never accede to that.”
Aside from the trucks, there will also be concrete barriers and other police barriers in place.
“Nowhere along the entire route will be any cross streets,” said NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan. “So everything’s going to be closed. We’re closing 42nd and 57th streets this year, which hadn’t been done in the past.”
The NYPD Counterterrorism Critical Response Command units will also be in place, with eight vapor wave dogs trained to detect explosives.
“Those dogs work on the displacement of air past your body, so I would smell someone’s perfume or cologne, and the dog would smell explosives emanating from one’s body,” said NYPD Counterterrorism Chief James Waters, “so as opposed to walking up to a package and just sniffing a package, they can work a large crowd area by just having the proper wind direction.”
Plainclothes officers will blend in with the crowd and other officers will be posted on rooftops along the parade route. Each officer will have a smartphone to connect to the Incident Command Post in case anything happens.
“We’re going to have a very large detail of cops out there that day,” Monahan said.
Police have also padlocked mailboxes along the parade route.
As for the parade participants, Macy’s has been working closely with the NYPD to ensure everyone has been properly screened.
“We have a very, very close relationship with Macy’s and we know that people that are around the route have been vetted,” Waters said.
De Blasio emphasized that there is no credible threat against the city. He also noted that concerns about a possible threat at the parade last year, in the wake of the Paris terror attacks, did not stop New Yorkers from coming out.
Last year’s parade set record attendance, de Blasio noted.
“New Yorkers are very clear that no matter what is going on around us, we are always New York. We remain true to our values,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers are strong and resilient.”
For the more than 3 million locals and tourists expected to come out, many say they’re glad to see the extra show of force.
Courtney Lee of Atlanta said she will be bringing her children to the parade and has no hesitation at all.
“Just knowing there are people that are in security that are watching having the identification where they’re checking faces through cameras and everything — it just makes you feel like, you know, there is more people who are involved than what we can see,” Lee said, “and that’s very comforting.”
“It’s comforting to see so many police about,” tourist Robert Armstrong told CBS2’s Janelle Burrell. “Makes you feel a lot better.”
“We’ve been seeing so many police around that I feel this is the safest place ever, to be honest,” said tourist Eva Vellar.
“We’re gonna have security on top of security on top of security,” said Yonkers resident Jeff Scharf. “If anyone can get through, I doubt it.”
Police started closing streets on the Upper West Side Wednesday morning for the balloon inflation for the parade. More streets will be closed Wednesday night ahead of the parade. For a full list, click here.
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