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Friday, May 06, 2005

Who needs Batman?

NY Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly was at the Belfer Center today, talking at lunch (off-the-record) about the city's counter-terrorism efforts.

Kelly testified to the 9/11 Commission, and I'm not sure he told us much that he hasn't said publicly.

As he sees it, NYC is the #1 likely terrorist target in the US and it is his job to prevent that from happening. Clearly, he takes the threat and his responsibility very seriously.
Beginning in January 2002, we created a new Bureau of Counter Terrorism and we expanded our Intelligence Division. We dedicated over 1,000 police officers to counter-terrorism duties....

[Deputy Policy] Commissioner [for Counterterrorism Michael] Sheehan also oversees the Counter Terrorism Division and Regional Training Center, which were established as sub-units of the Counter Terrorism Bureau. Among the core responsibilities of these divisions are to train and equip all 36,000 uniformed members of the department for their counter terrorism duties...

We have assigned 250 officers full-time to the Counter Terrorism Bureau. Over 130 of them have been posted to the Joint Terrorism Task Force with the FBI, including one detective assigned to the FBI National JTTF in Washington D.C. That compares to just 17 officers assigned to the JTTF on September 11th of 2001. We have also posted a New York City detective to Washington to serve as our liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. NYPD detectives assigned to the JTTF have taken part in important, terrorist-related investigations in Jordan, Germany, Kuwait, and Bali...

We have posted New York City detectives to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France; Tel Aviv, London, Toronto, Montreal and Singapore. We have also sent our detectives to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and to Afghanistan to interrogate terrorist suspects there.
In addition to these transgovernmental efforts, the city has stepped up its foreign language testing and training, as well.

According to Kelly's testimony, these counter-terror efforts cost NYC $200 million annually. The city wants a greater share of the Homeland Security budget and hopes to get it (too much goes to smaller localities that are unlikely targets).

Incidentally, these stepped up counter-terrorism efforts and the increased spending has occurred in a context when the Department has lost thousands of police officers. During that time, however, crime rates and especially homicide rates are down dramatically. Manhattan has fewer murders now that at any time since the turn of the century -- and I mean 100 years ago! The city as a whole is at its lowest levels of murder in 40 years. NYC declares itself the country's safest city, and by some measures it is.

In the fictional Gotham City, Policy Commissioner Gordon contacts Batman when his force needs help to mitigate crime. It looks like Commissioner Kelly is doing just fine without a superhero.

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