New York, Dec 22: In the wake of the Berlin truck attack, police departments around the US are making a show of force at places where crowds gather at Christmas time. In New York City, police dispatched heavily-armed counter terrorism officers to stand guard at crowded pop-up Christmas markets in Union Square, Bryant Park and Columbus Circle only an hour after news broke Tuesday about the carnage in Berlin, where a stolen truck slammed into a crowd and killed 12 people.
The police department also has a program to encourage truck rental companies to report any suspicious interactions with people wanting to rent vehicles that might be used in an attack. Mayor Bill de Blasio called the precautions "a very sad reality." In Chicago, police parked their vehicles diagonally at the corners of Daley Plaza to block any vehicle access to a Christmas market there. In San Francisco, motorcycle and mounted horse units were patrolling in high-traffic shopping areas. Frieder Frotscher, who owns a stand that sells German steins, has made the trip to the Chicago market from Sachsen, Germany, for the past 21 years.
He said he never considered closing after what happened Monday. "I see all the increased security," he said. "If we don't come that means we would have reached the decision that they (terrorists) want." In New York, a Columbus Circle vendor said he wasn't thinking about the attack in Berlin.
"If something happens like that it could happen anywhere," said Armand Altan, 40. "We are open. There is no X-ray cameras or security checking everybody. Someone could walk inside with the vest or with the backpack, you don't know. So if we think like this, we shouldn't go outside from the home." Big cities have been fortifying sidewalks since the September 11 attacks, installing bollards and concrete planters designed to prevent vehicles from driving into pedestrians or the side of a building.
Parts of Times Square and a two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House have been closed to traffic for years, partly as a precaution against car bombs. Other cities added new measures against truck attacks after a man drove a rented, refrigerated truck weighing about 20 tons into a crowd in Nice, France in July, killing 86 people.
Law enforcement in Los Angeles, for example, has been placing rows of two to three cars or other large equipment in front of large event entrances, including two massive parades this year in West Hollywood, said Scott Edson, chief of the special operations division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.