In a world where pesky drones are becoming an increasingly greater nuisance - see the embarrassment that was last week's Gatwick airport shutdown- the NYPD is taking the other side and is ramping up security for the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square with more than 1,200 cameras — some installed on high-flying drones — to protect the nearly 2 million expected revelers, police officials said Friday.
One of the camera-equipped drones will be tethered to the top of a building to prevent potential attacks on the party below, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said at a press conference quoted by the NY Post.
"This is the first time we’re going to be using it at a large-scale event,” he said. “It’s just going to give us an additional view of the crowd."
Bloomberg reports that the drones are being put in place in an attempt to prevent another incident like the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, in which 59 people who were attending an outdoor concert were killed by a sniper located in a hotel room overlooking the Vegas strip.
What about bystanders who decide to bring one of their own drones? That would be a bad idea because counter-terrorism cops will also deploy counter-drone technology to protect against attackers, or anyone else for that matter, with anyone caught flying a drone likely to be arrested.
“Don’t fly a drone that night… There’s no need to fly a drone,” O’Neill said. “And if you do fly one, there’s a good chance you’ll end up getting arrested.”
In a press briefing, Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller said that in addition to the drones, the police will be using other technology for security including the use of 1,225 portable and stationary cameras. Miller described the drones as supporting devices that will give “visual aid and flexibility” from being able to move a camera around a large crowd and being able to move quickly to any required spot.
The precautions come with the NYPD reporting that so far there have been no credible threats directed at the ball-dropping bash or toward New York City in general. But O’Neill warned, “If anyone sees something that doesn’t look right … we need to know about it.”
Thousands of New York’s 37,000-officer police force, including hundreds of rookies sworn in Friday, will flood the area. No one will be more than 10 feet away from a uniformed or undercover plain clothes officer, O’Neill said. Participants in the celebration will be cordoned off in sections, or pens, in an area from 37th Street to 59th Street and between Sixth and Eighth Avenues.
In addition to the flying cameras, police will also set up 235 vehicles to block areas where revelers gather in Times Square, while 50 canine teams will be present to sniff out explosives.
“You will see a lot of officers with a lot of gear and long guns,” said O’Neill. “There will be much security that people see and much that they don’t see.”
Officers will also install more than 200 cement blocks in addition to metal bollards that already exist, according to the station.
Entry to the party starts at 11 a.m. and the square closes at 4 a.m. As usual, no backpacks, coolers, umbrellas or alcohol are allowed.