By Genevieve Long for The Epoch Times
With 32,000 police, the New York Police Department is the country’s largest police force and has been hardest-hit by terrorist attacks. It’s an operation that needs to have more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
One of these is the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit—an elite group of 600 officers and analysts stationed in New York City and throughout the world. The work of the unit, which was created after 9/11, is detailed in the new book “Securing the City” by Christopher Dickey. Dickey is the Paris Bureau Chief and Middle East Regional Editor for Newsweek Magazine.
The book, which was released this month, was written with the close cooperation of the NYPD and police Commissioner Ray Kelly, who says the specialized unit was created because information from the federal government was too slow in coming. After 9/11, he realized the NYPD could no longer rely on the CIA, FBI and NSA to keep New York City safe.
“Everything is bureaucratized, everything is slowed down in the federal government,” said Kelly during a recent discussion with “Securing the City” author Charles Dickey at the Overseas Press Club in Manhattan. Kelly says in the years since 9/11, the NYPD has focused on how to create a highly skilled and versatile unit with members who not only understands the world of terrorists, but who speak their language and even their slang.
Kelly says these basic communication skills are vital to the work they do.
“We took all of the speakers of the sensitive languages and sent them to Berlitz [language schools],” said Kelly. Many of those used for the special assignment are foreign-born immigrants who the federal government will not clear to do counterterrorism work. Kelly thinks that such an exclusion is a mistake, and understanding subtle linguistic nuances can make for truly useful intelligence. “They know the slang of the back streets of Karachi because they are from the back streets of Karachi,” said Kelly about the members of the unit.
In addition to extensive international field work and intelligence gathering, the unit also works side-by-side with the beat police in the NYPD who are deeply familiar with the city’s five boroughs. This includes the use of Critical Response Vehicles (CRVs).
Twice a day, approximately five times a week, 75 police cars—or CRVs—with two police officers each from various parts of the city gather at a rallying point, get the day’s counterterrorism briefing, and break off into smaller groups. The rallying points change constantly and sometimes cause a stir when they are in major tourist areas like Times Square. The unpredictable movement of the CRVs, coupled with their sudden, massive presence also acts as a warning to potential terrorist attackers. The enormous police presence is impossible to ignore, and impossible to predict.
The NYPD’s counterterrorism unit also closely watches broader changes in the stability of international situations, such as the war in Afghanistan, and resurgent Taliban forces there.
“We pay a lot of attention to what goes on in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” said Kelly. “You cannot separate Pakistan from Afghanistan and the rise of the Taliban.”
Although New York has been hit repeatedly by terrorist attacks and is the ongoing target of sinister plots, book author Christopher Dickey says the city’s large number of immigrants is its best insurance. That’s largely due to the fact that immigrants traditionally tend to become personally vested in their adopted city, reducing the chance they would attack a place they call home.
“New York keeps taking it on the chin,” said Dickey, who adds that despite past attacks against New York, there is still less to fear than most places. “The safest big cities in the U.S. are those with the highest number of first-generation immigrants.”
Dickey’s book, “Securing the City”, is available at Amazon.com and in major bookstores.