Times Square on New Year’s Eve
January 22, 2010
One of the keys to successful law enforcement is help from you, the public. If you see something out of place or know of terrorist or criminal activity, call the police. Call the FBI...
Mr. Schiff: Hello. I’m Neal Schiff, and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. One of the keys to successful law enforcement is help from you, the public. If you see something out of place or know of terrorist or criminal activity, call the police. Call the FBI. Report what you know. Cooperation between law enforcement agencies is important, too. And on New Year’s Eve, that’s exactly what the plan was in New York City and around Times Square.
Mr. Kolko: “Numerous agencies are involved besides just the New York Police Department and FBI. DEA; DHS; ATF; of course the Port Authority Police Department has a major role; they have to secure the airports; the waterways, so the Coast Guard is involved. Literally every federal, state, and local law enforcement agency in the New York area has a role in security on New Year’s Eve.”
Mr. Schiff: That’s FBI Special Agent Rich Kolko. He’s at the New York Field Office, the FBI’s largest division.
Mr. Kolko: “The New Year’s Eve event in Times Square is one of the major special events that we work here at the FBI in New York. The New York Police Department (NYPD) is clearly in charge of security for the event. They know exactly how to handle a crowd of well over a million people, keep it peaceful, and keep traffic moving, and make it an enjoyable event for everybody. The FBI has a role supporting the New York Police Department in the event that some act of terrorism or major criminal act occurs. So what we do is we deploy our specialty teams to secure locations near and around Times Square. This includes our SWAT team, bomb techs, negotiators, and several other entities; the Evidence Response Team. And these people are in place, ready to react in a moment’s notice should something occur. Meanwhile, we have a command post that’s staffed, up and running, at a different FBI location. Their job is to enact the crisis response plan in the event something does occur.
Mr. Schiff: People attending this big event every year, they see a lot of police presence. But they don’t see all, isn’t that right?
Mr. Kolko: “Absolutely. There are New York police officers on every corner and all along the streets, but there are also a lot of security efforts that are happening behind the scenes. The FBI is in their command post and at some locations that are not as visible. The FBI’s command post truck is parked near Times Square, but certainly out of the way where the public can generally see it. This gives the FBI and some of the other agencies that are there with their command posts a safe location to operate from, yet allows them to be very close to the action in case they are needed.”
Mr. Schiff: What are some of the tools, like your vehicles and things, and some equipment that the FBI personnel have at hand, in case something happens?
Mr. Kolko: “Well the FBI has numerous quick response teams that are needed in the event that the crisis response plan is enacted. We’ve got bomb techs, we’ve got an Evidence Response Team, we have a Hazardous Material Response Team, we’ve got the SWAT, we’ve got crisis negotiators, we’ve got communicators. We have a long list of assets that are immediately placed adjacent to Times Square and in the area and are available to respond as needed. All of these teams are geared up, they’re ready to go, they have their equipment, their trucks, their radios, firearms, everything that they would need to necessitate a response for an event and that’s what FBI’s major role was that evening.”
Mr. Schiff: So did anything of major importance develop, occur, or anything violent? During the day, and into the evening and to midnight?
Mr. Kolko: “Everybody was a little bit on edge because of some recent events that have occurred in the world, so NYPD, FBI, PAPD, and others just stepped up security a little bit. Basically the people, the tourists, that come to watch the event are not allowed to bring backpacks and things like that into what’s called the “frozen zone,” which is the area around Times Square. We had several calls for suspicious packages, some people with backpacks, and each time a team of New York police and FBI were deployed to these things, to speak with these people, to find out if there was anything actually going on with these backpacks or abandoned packages, but fortunately every one of them was resolved with negative results.”
Mr. Schiff: How does an event like this compare with other major events—from inauguration, Super Bowl, Academy Awards—and what did we learn from this past New Year’s event situation?
Mr. Kolko: “Well, this is the biggest event that we cover in New York City. It compares to, actually, the U.S. Open tennis event in the number of people, but the tennis event covers a two-week period, so this is the largest event that we have in New York City with over a million-and-a-half people. And what we learn each time is, always an important thing, is communications and what we have as a backup. Will the cell phones work? Will the BlackBerries work? Will the radios work? You always find that you’ve got some little glitch in the system, but in reality, this is a great exercise for us because it helps us find workarounds. The most important thing is being able to communicate with our teams out there, communicate with the other law enforcement agencies, and have all of that in place. We’ve learned the best places that we can have our response teams, what the quickest way is for them to get where they need to be, and although it comes off as an exercise, it’s a real operation. Each time we do it, it makes us a little bit better for next year.”
Mr. Schiff: There shall be more major events in New York City and all those agencies will get together, plan a big plan, and keep the city and the millions of people there as safe as possible. Law enforcement works for you 24/7 from the largest cities to the smallest boroughs and townships. Learn more about the FBI and how law enforcement works together. Visit www.fbi.gov on the Internet. That’s our show for this week. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.
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