Police bolster presence at Penn Station
(The following article by Mary Spicuzza was posted on the New York Times website on August 24.)
NEW YORK -- The New York City Police Department stepped up security in and around Pennsylvania Station yesterday, flooding the area with officers to prepare for the Republican National Convention next week.
"We've ramped up a week in advance to thwart any terrorist plans, although we have no information to indicate that a specific plot is under way," said Paul J. Browne, a police spokesman.
Mr. Browne said that 10,000 officers were involved in convention security, including patrols of Madison Square Garden, the convention site; delegate hotels; and the transit system. He declined to discuss the specific number of police officers patrolling Penn Station yesterday, citing security concerns.
Groups of police officers were patrolling the platforms yesterday, walking throughout the station and around the perimeter of Madison Square Garden.
"I've never seen this many officers," said Jimmy Curry, 65, a Tampa, Fla., resident who was waiting for an Amtrak train to Orlando. "You don't see this many police in a month in Tampa."
Mr. Curry, who was standing next to about 100 officers gathered along 31st Street outside the station, said their presence made him feel "more secure."
Sikdar Khair, who operates a hot dog and kebab stand near the corner of 31st Street and Eighth Avenue, said he had not seen so many police officers in one place since the last police cadet graduation ceremony at the Garden.
"With these guys around, we're safe," Mr. Khair said, shortly before a police officer stopped at his stand to buy a hot dog.
His friend Clinton Robinson disagreed.
"Why do you feel safe?" he said. "It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars. I don't feel safer, not me."
Law enforcement and transit officials said that people should expect more security before and during the convention, which runs from Monday to Thursday next week. Most agencies said they had been preparing about a year for the convention and had been increasing security for months.
Marcie Golgoski, an Amtrak spokeswoman, said that the railway had been on a "heightened state of alert for some time," but that she could not discuss specific convention security measures.
Scott O. Sandman, a spokesman with the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs, said the New York National Guard was also providing convention security, but added that its members had been patrolling Penn Station and Grand Central Station since Sept. 11, 2001.
Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said yesterday's increase in city police officers would help them acclimate to patrolling Penn Station before the convention began.
"Patrolling a train station is different; the environment is different," he said.
He and other officials said customers should expect more security officers in the days ahead.
"That is the new normal for that week," said Dan Stessel, a spokesman for New Jersey Transit.
Mr. Browne said that bomb-sniffing dogs and plainclothes officers would also be part of increased convention security.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
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