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Dogs, snipers and bag-checks: NYC plans to keep Times Square revelers safe on New Year's Eve

by Tom Winter and Kalhan Rosenblatt /  / Updated 
Image: New York Police Department Strategic Response Group members stand in Times Square to provide security ahead of New Year's Eve celebrations in Manhattan

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New York City is ramping up security for an extremely chilly New Year's Eve celebration that expects to see 2 million revelers ring in 2018.

During a press conference on Thursday, local law enforcement officials explained that while there are no credible threats to New York City or its New Year's Eve celebration, additional resources would be on hand for the big night.

Officials said there will be 12 points of entry for spectators to come into the area before being subjected to multi-layer checkpoints, which will include bomb-sniffing "vapor wake dogs," magnetometers or wand searches and bag inspections before being allowed into the viewing pens.

"We're putting out more vapor wake dogs and we're putting out more observations teams and counter-sniper teams," Police Commissioner of New York City James O'Neill said of measures specific to this year.

Because temperatures are expected to dip as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on New Year's Eve, according to The Weather Channel, the dogs will be used to detect any nefarious devices beneath layers of clothing.

O'Neill said planning for this year's event began "just after the first piece of confetti dropped last year."

Related: Law enforcement community reflects on a deadly 2017

But in light of events that happened this year — including the mass shooting in Las Vegas and two terror attacks in the city between October and December — certain additions had to be made.

Law enforcement officials did not specify how many police will be out during New Year's Eve and did not specify if the number is the greatest of any year in the city's history.

In response to the October Las Vegas massacre, which was carried out from a hotel window, uniformed NYPD detectives have been assigned to each hotel in Times Square and will work in tandem with each location's security team.

And because of a failed suicide bombing of New York's Port Authority earlier this month, police officers deployed to New Year's events have been given training on how an officer can deal with a suicide bomber threat.

That training includes identifying would-be bombers, clearing crowds if they detect a threat, stopping the bomber with lethal force, if needed, and treating the wounded if a bomb goes off.

Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said the police are "aware of terrorist propaganda," but added that it is "run-of-the-mill." Officials said New Yorkers at New Year's Eve events should "feel safe."

NYPD Chief of Patrol Terence Monahan said that bags will be inspected not only on subway station stops near Times Square but at transit hubs throughout the area.

"This is a shared responsibility," Monahan added, repeating the popular law-enforcement refrain: "If you see something, say something."

Despite the increased security, some New Yorkers told NBC New York that would celebrate the New Year without concern.

"I think they got it under control," said Queens resident Meredith Begley. "They NYPD, they know what they're doing."

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department meanwhile will have every officer working Sunday, while the Nevada National Guard is activating about 350 soldiers and airmen after lawmakers earlier this month approved tripling the state funding for the event's security measures. The federal government is also sending dozens of personnel to assist with intelligence and other efforts.

"I'm confident every available resource is being used to make sure this New Year's Eve will be safe," Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said during a news conference Wednesday.

Tourism officials expect about 330,000 to come to Las Vegas for the festivities that are anchored by a roughly eight-minute firework display at the top of seven of the destination's casino-hotels. The show will start 10 seconds before midnight Sunday at the Stratosphere. The other firing locations are at the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently upgraded the city's New Year's Eve on its list of special events that due to its economic or social impact, length and attendance could be potential targets of criminal activity. For the first time, the celebration was ranked in the highest category, which also includes the Super Bowl.

The designation of the Special Event Assessment Rating 1 leads to a substantial increase in federal resources. Lombardo said the assistance will include intelligence personnel who will analyze social media and other information, medical technicians and helicopters.

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