NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - The threat around the world is real and growing and increasingly unpredictable. With New York holding the top spot on the terrorists' most wanted list, the NYPD has to make sure the city's preparedness and response stay one step ahead of disaster. Fox 5 got an exclusive look at how the department is trying to do just that.
The shocking November 2015 Paris terror attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other locations marked a turning point for the NYPD. A counterterrorism policing strategy that had been in the works was fast-tracked and operational in less than a year, according to Deputy Chief Scott Shanley of the Counterterrorism Bureau.
"We decided we wanted to get a more highly trained, equipped tactical asset out, deployed proactively to have the ability to harden targets and to have the response capability in the event of a terrorist incident," Shanley said.
The result is an elite unit of 525 officers called the CRC, or Critical Response Command. The command operates 24/7, 365 days a year. Instead of waiting for calls, they're out on the streets continually, equipped with long guns and vehicles that have bullet-resistant panels. After what they saw in Paris, Shanley said the main concern was speed and the ability to get to multiple locations simultaneously.
"Because we have to think of a complex, coordinated attack, we'll mobilize tactical assets to the scene of the incident," Shanley said. "But we'll also mobilize assets to staging areas in case there is a secondary attack or a tertiary attack."
The CRC officers are also armed with information. At the start of their shift, they get an intelligence briefing that includes methods, targets, and incidents in other countries, as well as how it could relate to New York.
"Whatever goes on internationally, we localize it here to New York City," Shanley said. "And we'll proactively deploy."
After completing special training, CRC officers are issued M4 carbines. The officers are highly visible in Times Square, which in 2010 was the target of a failed car bombing attack. What you don't see is that they've already sent intel officers to the surrounding businesses and hotels, so they know the security personnel and building plans.
"We have a reactive capacity, but our whole mission is proactive," Shanley said. "We want to be out there to prevent, to deter, to disrupt an attack."
The counterterrorism eyes on the city aren't just on the ground. The vast open New York Harbor gets special attention from the Harbor Unit and its million-dollar fast boats. The bottom of the boat carries a radiation detector to thwart maritime threats.
"We look for small craft that are in locations they're not supposed to be in, we have security zones set up around a lot of these iconic structures like the statue of liberty itself, some of the bridges," Sgt. Harold Salters said. "We're looking for something that's nefarious, something that's bad. In other words, like a dirty bomb that may be smuggled in on one of these small boats."
The NYPD's counterterrorism strategy has other key layers, including the Intelligence Unit. But the core principles remain the same: real-time information and fast response built in.
Chief Shanley said that training is never really over. Rather, it is continually evolving.