Thursday, March 23, 2006

A nation in fear

I read City Rag because I am always kept well aware of what is going on in NYC. This is a frightening and creepy story from 60 Minutes about what the city is doing to keep us safe from another terrorist attack:

One common sight in the city's fight against terror is a counter-terrorism operation called "a surge." About 100 police cars from all over the city swarm into an area like Times Square. These happen unannounced all over the city.

A "surge" is a simultaneous deployment of about 200 cops to potential terrorist targets — and a visible demonstration to terrorists and New Yorkers of the widespread changes the NYPD has implemented since 9/11. Giordano says these swarms of police officers go to locations all over the city.

Mayor Bloomberg says the purpose of it all is to intimidate. "You'll see surges of police officers all of a sudden, heavily armed, that appear in one — in a quiet, nice neighborhood. And you say, 'What are they doing here?' And then they disappear. Every once in a while, you'll see this stream of police cars go zipping down the street, lights and sirens. And you say, 'What's happening? What's happening?' Nothing! I hope."

Sheehan acknowledges the NYPD has its own informants working undercover in the city. "The key to counter-terrorism is intelligence," he says, "and the key to intelligence are informants".

And every day, helicopters with high-tech cameras monitor the city, looking for anything out of the ordinary.

And I thought Chicago was bad? Here is an article from the NYTimes way back in 2004. It seems that some people (like me) are freaked out about the "swarms" and some people just don't get it:
Indeed, what must a surge look like to a tourist? Do the police turn out like this for every little thing? Is there really any place safer than New York? Roger and Ann Wright, visiting the city for the first time with their children, asked one of the officers what was happening.

"He said they all gather at one point and then swarm an area," Mrs. Wright said the officer told her. "See if there's any terrorist activity going on."

His girlfriend, Daniqua Gallier, 17, said she had the creeps. "I felt weird, like something was really going wrong. Like there were terrorists around," she said.
We already discussed the fact that "terror" is not an easy target to guard against (here). I (personally) would feel very uncomfortable living in a city where this goes on daily. To be honest I would rather live with the thought that there might be a terrorist, than live in a city of storm-troopers.