NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Even though their first mission is to protect and serve, many of New York’s finest take on a whole different set of tasks during the holiday season.
Officer Franklin Diaz is one of countless cops across the city who at times serve as tour guide or camera man with the surge of tourists visiting the Big Apple. He estimates “anywhere in the hundreds” of people ask him for directions during the most wonderful time of the year.
Diaz says he also gets asked to take pictures constantly. After all, he’s stationed right by the world’s most famous Christmas tree.
“You have about 800,000 who walk through this area every day,” Diaz said, referring to Rockefeller Center.
With all those wide-eyed newbies comes the non-stop need for help. Most of them ask our men and women in blue questions like where the closest subway is, or where they could find Times Square.
One family from Ohio who spoke with CBS2 said they were in the city for only an hour, and already needed help.
“I don’t have a clue where I’m going, so I will take all the help I can get,” tourist Daniel Mullins said.
Many tourists say they could turn to the GPS on their smartphone, but they feel like interaction with police officers is the safest thing to do especially in areas popular with tourists.
“With this being the number one tourist destination, it’s also one of the largest targets in the city,” Midtown North Captain Thomas Smith said of the Rockefeller tree. “With the amount of people here, we have a lot to maintain.”
Smith says even through all their smiles in their photos, his officers still mean business. At Rockefeller Center and across the five boroughs, their police work still comes before anything else.
“We work in conjunction with critical response, counter terrorism, citywide traffic task force in order to facilitate the safe passage of all these people,” Smith said.
Still, his officers say they manage to have plenty of fun while serving as an impromptu welcome committee.