The State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) recently partnered with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in Operation NY-SECURE to conduct counter terrorism and incident response details along Amtrak routes and MTA commuter lines.
These details help improve coordination and response between the railroad police agencies responsible for each station, and the state and local law enforcement agencies that respond to emergencies at those locations, according to the DHSES.
These details included heightened platform patrols, increased security presence onboard trains, detection canine sweeps, and counter-surveillance measures.
Operation NY-SECURE’s Purpose
Benjamin Voce-Gardner, director of the office of counter terrorism at NYS DHSES, said Operation NY-SECURE’s purpose is to “both improve coordination and response capacity between the different law enforcement agencies.”
Voce-Garner further discussed the goal of the rail details.
“Part of the goal is to make sure that these agencies have an opportunity to work together, to get to know each other, and to get familiar with their operations and their tempo,” Voce-Garnder said. “But then it’s also to provide a presence to commuters so that they understand that their law enforcement is engaged and protecting them.”
Teams conducted 72 single-station details across the state, and 12 multi-station details at Amtrak and MTA stations along the Empire Line.
In 2022, Operation NY-SECURE completed 84 details across the state. Voce-Gardner said the DHSES anticipates that tempo to continue in 2023.
Since the program's inception in 2018, law enforcement teams have conducted 322 details across the state.
Numbers Behind the Training Exercises
New York governor Kathy Hochul recently announced the State DHSES office of counter terrorism conducted training exercises at more than 1,000 locations statewide in 2022.
More than 5,200 of the exercises have been conducted across New York since 2016.
"By utilizing these critical counter terrorism exercises at over 1,000 locations, we are helping educate New Yorkers across the state on how to spot suspicious activity and report it to law enforcement, as well as enhance security measures," Hochul said. "Keeping all New Yorkers safe is my number one priority, and I thank DHSES, State Police, and our public safety partners across the state for their continued support of these important programs that safeguard the public."
More Ways to Counter Terrorism
Another way DHSES is combating terrorism is with red team exercises.
“We work with local law enforcement, federal law enforcement, and state police, and then work with specific communities or at specific event locations to provide them counter terrorism briefings and actually do exercises with them,” Voce-Gardner said.
Public safety teams across the state conducted exercises involving over 450 law enforcement personnel in each of the state's 16 counter terrorism zones. As part of this process, teams assessed suspicious activity reporting and recognition at 842 retailers and businesses that sell chemicals, compounds, components, services, or rent space or resources that could be exploited by those with nefarious intent, according to the DHSES.
Additionally, teams assessed more than 180 infrastructure locations across the state, including stadiums and arenas, malls and shopping centers, colleges and universities, airports, transit hubs, and other mass-gathering locations.
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