Speaking at the Jewish Community Relations Council's annual meeting last evening, Commissioner Raymond Kelly assured the audience that the Police Department is committed to protecting New Yorkers from the threat of Islamic terrorism.
"We know and anyone who listens to Al Qaeda knows that one of their terrorist goals is to launch an attack that results in more casualties and more economic damage than September 11," Mr. Kelly said. "There's every reason to believe that if they could, they would do it again."
Mr. Kelly laid out a wide array of tools he says the NYPD has made use of in order to stay abreast of potential threats, including radiation detectors to block nuclear materials from entering the city, full-time counterterrorism experts who plan long-term defense strategies, and cameras that can read license plates of vehicles entering Manhattan. He described the duties of NYPD officers who have been assigned as liaisons to foreign cities' police departments in order to draw on their counterterrorism experience and intelligence.
The department has a presence in such major cities as London, Madrid, and Amman, which have endured major attacks by Islamic radicals, but Mr. Kelly singled out Israel as a country that New York has looked to for help in bolstering its counterterrorism strategy.
"For obvious reasons we have a lot to learn from the Israelis' experience with terrorism," Mr. Kelly said.
He cited the city's many immigrant communities as an asset in assessing intelligence abroad, noting that a significant number of NYPD officers are fluent in such languages as Pashtun and Urdu, which are used in parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan where Al Qaeda's presence is strongest.
The JCRC meeting is considered a traditional stopping point for political hopefuls. Council Member Eric Gioia, a likely candidate for public advocate in 2009, and Council Member John Liu, considered a possible candidate for public advocate or for comptroller, were in attendance. Mr. Kelly is considered a potential candidate for mayor in 2009.