Tourists and New Yorkers continued to visit Times Square on Thursday despite an ISIS video that suggested New York City as a target.
NYPD officers with semi-automatic long guns patrolled the crossroads of the world, and a Times Square Alliance guard suggested crowds were a bit lighter, maybe because of the rain, or because of the ISIS video that depicts a person putting on a suicide vest, and includes shots of Times Square and Herald Square.
In response to the video, the NYPD said New York City remains a top target and the city on heightened alert though there is no credible threat.
John Doherty, 49, from Boston was in town for video surveillance convention and walking through Times Square on Thursday afternoon.
“I’ve seen the video … I think with all the police officers here now than I did two weeks ago. It’s kind of good to have them [heavily armed officers] here, but if something happens, there’s going to be casualties.”
Doherty said the potential of a terrorist attack is always in the back of his mind when he goes into a big city or crowded area.
Kristen Silakowski, 23, heard about the ISIS video while at work in her law firm office near Times Square.
“It’s scary, you never think it’s actually going to happen to you,” Silakowski said. “Listening to the mayor and police chief definitely get you to step back and breathe a bit. But it doesn’t take away the fear.”
Silakowski said her employer hadn’t formally acknowledged the ISIS video and possible threat.
“An attack in North America would be a wonderful coup for ISIS,” said Retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, who teaches homeland security law at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School.
McDaniel said he believes the ISIS video is not a warning but an “inspirational call to arms” that could incite a “lone wolf terrorist” to act — such as the hatchet attack last year on an NYPD officer.
“I would not say it is truly a warning because that is not part of their playbook, they don’t want to warn us. I would not take that as a legitimate warning whatsoever … they would love to attack Times Square; I don't think they have the means to do it right now.”
“ISIS and Islamic terrorists — this is the Super Bowl for their mission, and to walk around a feel totally safe is a disservice to everyone in the city,” said Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins.
Mullins said New Yorkers should use the Paris attacks to reassess and come up with contingency plans on where to meet family members and how to communicate in the event of a terror.
And, although Police Commissioner Bill Bratton introduced the new, 500-officer Critical Response Command after the Paris attacks, and is giving more cops active shooter training, Mullins thinks more needs to be done.
“I’d like to see more police officers armed with semi-automatic assault rifles than the basic handgun,” Mullins said, so if an attack similar to Paris happened, the first officers on scene would be heavily-armed.
Mullins also said security needs to be beefed up at precinct houses.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that NYPD units such as the Critical Response Command gives the NYPD not only the ability to fight terror but prevent it.
"We have the strongest ability to respond to an incident of terror of any city in this nation. As Commissioner Bratton said the other day, even as many as two dozen incidents could be responded to simultaneously by the NYPD if God forbid that day came," de Blasio said. "Most important thing for New Yorkers to remember is the terrorist want you to change. They want you to be afraid. They want you to change your way of life. They want to undermine our democracy. We will not let the terrorists win. We will not change who we are. We have to be resolute. We have to show we are stronger and better than them by not changing our American values."