As told to THINK editor Meredith Bennett-Smith; edited for clarity.
New York remains the number one terrorist target in the world. We represent so much that is abhorrent to terrorists like ISIS. We are the entertainment capital of the world, we are the capital of finance, we are home to a large Jewish population — there is just so much here for these people to hate.
The attack that occurred yesterday in New York City, on the West Side, on the bike path that runs along the Hudson River, was tragic. Eight lives were lost, the most lives lost in a terror attack in New York City since 9/11.
We cannot prevent everything, everywhere. That is the reality. At the same time, we cannot let the fear of these attacks be such a constant that we live our lives in fear. We cannot do that.
So could it have been prevented? The New York Police Department works very hard to try to prevent terror attacks. And so many attacks have been prevented. But you can’t prevent them all. Yesterday was a very clear example of that.
Add to this the fact that we’re seeing an increasing rate of violence. A little over a year ago, there was a bombing on 23rd street, in Chelsea. And as we see in both that instance and yesterday’s incident, some of these attacks are ultimately successful.
We mourn the loss of lives, and will try to prevent more from being lost. But we are living in a new reality.
Meanwhile, attacks by truck or vehicle have become much more frequent around the world, from France to Sweden. This is certainly the first time such a tactic has been used on this scale in New York City. But it is something that we are concerned that we will be seeing more of, because it is so easy. All it takes is one person committed to trying to hurt others. We must be prepared for more of these so-called lone wolf attacks, whether enabled, inspired or directed by terrorism.
I am actually surprised that the perpetrator in this case did not kill and injure more people. The rate of speed he was going — the truck was supposedly traveling at a high rate of speed — and the size of the truck suggests we are fortunate more were not hurt.
What we need to attempt to do now is just do the best we can to prevent future attacks. During my second stint as New York Police Commissioner, we expanded significantly on the counter-intelligence unit created by Commissioner Kelly. I added hundreds of additional officers, the officers that you see in the city today, with the long guns and helmets and ballistic vests. These men and women strengthen our ability to prevent attacks and help us respond quicker if they do occur.
We are fortunate in New York that we have so many resources to work with. But that, again, is reflective of New York’s status as the most significant target in the world.
And so, life here will go on; it must. Indeed, the fact that the Halloween parade continued just blocks from where this horrific loss of life occurred is reflective of the resiliency of this city, and of our country. We will of course mourn the loss of lives, and we will try to do the best that we can to prevent more from being lost. But we are living in a new reality.
William J. Bratton has been in law enforcement for five decades and lead six police departments. He served two nonconsecutive terms as the Police Commissioner of the City of New York. He is currently the Executive Chairman of Teneo Risk.