New York may have thousands of well-armed security personnel at the ready, but intelligence is essential to protect the type of “soft” targets attacked in Paris, police Chief William Bratton said Sunday.
“In New York City, we’re always on the offense in terms of our intelligence gathering capabilities,” Bratton told ABC News.
He said the New York Police Department is the best anti-terrorism force in the United States, with the capability to “ramp up very quickly, as you saw over the last 48 hours.”
Within hours of Friday’s attacks on multiple Paris sites, the New York Police Department was placed on high alert, tightening security at obvious possible targets — the French consulate and its mission to the United Nations. Members of the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group also spread through Times Square.
“But the soft target aspect is the one of concern,” the police commissioner said. “That’s where the pro-activity of the intelligence gathering is so essential.”
Restaurants and entertainment venues are especially vulnerable because they cannot be constantly protected. Authorities must pick up clues of impending danger through intelligence.
Bratton later told CBS that security at soft targets is going to rely very heavily on “public awareness. … See something, say something.”
Bratton called the Paris attacks, for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility, “a game-changer.”
He said the IS group is adept with the latest technology, using social media and possibly “going dark” — meaning communicating plans through encrypted messages that cannot be monitored. Bratton said he believes such messaging systems will prove to have been “a significant factor” in planning the Paris attacks that claimed at least 132 lives.
On the psychological front, he said, another challenge is that the Paris attackers included suicide bombers.
“Quite obviously intended to come out of this not alive — which is also problematic for us, in the sense, these are people who are going to blow themselves up no matter what,” he said.