The New York City Police Department is working on a plan to photograph the license plates of every vehicle entering Manhattan in an effort to guard against a terrorist attack.
The plan, called Operation Sentinel, calls for photographing and scanning the license plates of cars and trucks at all bridges and tunnels, and using sensors to detect the presence of radioactivity, The New York Times reports.
Data on each vehicle would be sent to a command center in Lower Manhattan, where it would be stored for at least a month and then eliminated if it were not linked to a law enforcement investigation, according to Paul Browne, deputy police commissioner for public information.
“Our main objective would be to … find out about a plot before it ever got to a stage where a nuclear device or a dirty bomb was coming our way,” Browne told The Times. “This provides for our defense after a plot has already been launched and a device is on its way.”
Steven Emerson, executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism in Washington, said: “The bottom line is they can’t frisk everybody coming into Manhattan. They can’t wand everyone as they do at airports.”
The plan is “one tool of ensuring that if there is somebody on a terrorist watch list or someone driving erratically, or if a pattern develops that raises suspicions, it gives them an opportunity to investigate further and if need be, track down the drivers or the passengers,” he told The Times.
Police also have revealed a proposal to further safeguard Lower Manhattan, America’s financial heartland. The plan would place the entire 16-acre World Trade Center site within a security zone, in which only specially screened taxis, limousines or cars would be allowed to enter past barriers staffed by police.
All service and delivery trucks for the site would be directed to an underground bomb screening center near ground zero.
As Newsmax reported in March 2006, police in New York disclosed plans to create a “ring of steel” around Manhattan’s financial district, limiting access and monitoring hundreds of thousands of people and cars a day.
In London, a “ring of steel” features 16 entry and 12 exit points where the roads have been narrowed and marked with iron posts to force drivers to slow down. At each entry point, a camera scans license plates and sends the data to a computerized system that can flag wanted vehicles and notify a control room at police headquarters within seconds.
In 2004, New York began installing 1,000 closed-circuit cameras with 3,000 sensors in the city’s subway system.
Security officials in the U.S. are particularly concerned that New York could again become the target of a terrorist attack.
FBI Director Robert S. Mueller told Newsmax in May 2007 that Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group desperately want to obtain nuclear devices and explode them in American cities, especially New York and Washington, D.C., in an effort to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans.
He said ominously: “We are going to be hit at some point. It’s just a question of when and to what extent.”
Mueller said the nuclear threat is so real that he sometimes wakes up in the middle of the night worrying about that possibility.
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