Military and Police

The NYPD’s Strategy is Trashy

By Stephen Owsinski:

Yes, you read that correctly. And if you had unpleasant thoughts or called me names for being blunt and disrespectful, it’s not what you think. My explanation will clear it all up.

In the shadow of recent vicious attacks on cities in other nations like France and Germany, in which many were killed or maimed by terrorists operating large trucks that plowed into mass crowds of innocent bystanders, NYPD cops were faced with a big problem. As the largest municipal police force in America, they had the enormous responsibility of safeguarding prime property and thousands upon thousands of revelers at the world-renowned Times Square New Year’s Eve bash. For a metropolis city with inherently unrelenting commerce, it is virtually impossible to entirely close down much of an area in New York City, particularly Manhattan. In any of the five boroughs (counties) comprising NYC, trucks are everywhere. Trying to preempt any terrorist-operated truck is akin to the proverbial finding of a needle in a haystack.

The next best thing to do was to bring their own trucks to envelop a major target-rich environment where mass-destruction potential, in both lives and property, is astronomical. Curtailing any terrorist efforts is the name of the game, after all. The NYPD was keen enough to employ some of its city’s sanitation department fleet of garbage trucks not just after the partiers dispersed, but before the shindig commenced. The garbage trucks were loaded with tons of sand, each one strategically placed to formidably barrier the Times Square party zone. In the aggregate, sand is quite hefty and thus not easily moved, and it pours fluidly when the garbage trucks offload, making emptying a cinch.

Although aesthetically bland, 65 garbage trucks stood like hourglasses … keeping peace instead of time.

Supplementing the 65 sand-filled garbage trucks were approximately 100 fully-marked NYPD police cruisers for additional measure. If ever there were a visible police presence in America, it was during the New Year’s Eve festivities in NYC’s Times Square this year. Beat cops mingled with the crowd and officers assigned to the counterterrorism unit were posted with heavy firepower. Thanks to terrorism, a robust police presence is now necessary.

Thanks to the NYPD, it was provided.

History Lessons

In mid-July of 2016, terrorists plowed a truck square in the thick of a crowd in Nice, France, killing 86 people in one fell swoop. Six months later, a truck operated by a terrorist was driven into another group of folks attending a Christmas season outdoor market in Berlin, Germany, killing 12 and injuring 56 others. Americans were among the crowd of unsuspecting pedestrians in both attacks.

Left to their radical, hateful methods, cowardly and hell-bent jihadis will always think up new ways to launch unspeakable calamities.

Yet, after retrospective study, police strategists respond.

Simple and ingenious, the tacticians at NYPD’s One Police Plaza countered by utilizing the same medicine the terrorists used in both Germany and France. The one distinction, however, is that NYPD cops turned it into a positive force. Albeit not the first occasion the New York cops used sanitation trucks as barriers—they did so for the 2016 Thanksgiving Day Parade—it is nevertheless a novel idea ripe with wisdom. Sometimes, simplicity trumps technology, and that is a good thing.

Bolstering the garbage truck tactic was the removal of street corner trash receptacles (irony?) and vending machines. Numerous manhole (sewer) covers were also sealed-up so as to prevent any nefarious sorts slipping in or out of the crowded streets. There are ample rodents in the bowels of NYC, but the sewer-sealing maneuver was to prevent the rats we generally categorize as terrorists.

The NYPD logistics were impressive. Explosive-sniffing police canines, police snipers, metal and radiation detection operators, and police marine units in nearby harbor waters were all a part of the NYPD schematic to safeguard the Times Square festivities. Between uniformed and plainclothes officers, the NYPD allocated roughly 7000 cops to the area! Fair to say that they know how to host a safe and secure party, including taking out the trash.

With over one million attendees at Times Square to watch the ball drop and ring in 2017, revelers were funneled-down at various checkpoints, screened by NYPD cops, and then distributed into an array of spectator “pens,” each of which congregated an estimable 1000 attendees behind NYPD police barricades.

It may not seem at all sophisticated, but incorporating garbage trucks as an element of multi-layer security is simply impressive. Between the fleet of sanitation trucks, police cruisers, and NYPD police officers screening pedestrians at checkpoints, it is fair to say that jihadis remained on the Terrorist Watch list and not the invitations list. It is sad that our American culture has come to this; however, most folks are accustomed to safety and security measures for their own good, and are thus compliant.

Relative to this terrorism-based subject matter, a nightclub in Istanbul, Turkey was the venue for an ISIS-claimed attack on revelers celebrating the 2017 New Year on January 1. Although not involving a truck of any sort, a lone gunman opened fire inside the club, murdering 39 and injuring almost 70 others representing 14 different nations. One of the decedents was a police officer encountered just outside the club’s entrance.

So, as the New Year’s Eve 2017 ball dropped, the NYPD ensured they did not drop the ball; they galvanized the playing field with sand-filled trash trucks .

Not a bad way to buttress your beat and take out—keep out—the trash.

Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit.  He is currently a researcher and writer.

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