By Jonathan Allen
NEWYORK (Reuters) – New York City police will use an aerial drone for the first time to monitor the crowds gathered in Times Square on Monday for the New Year’s Eve ball-drop celebrations, officials said on Friday, adding there was no known threat to the night’s festivities.
The camera-carrying drone will be tethered to the roof of a building and will not fly directly over the hundreds of thousands of revellers in the area, but it will add an additional vantage-point alongside the 1,225 fixed video cameras that police will deploy.
Using counter-drone technology, the New York Police Department will also work with federal agents to thwart any civilians tempted to fly their own drones through Manhattan’s canyons as 2019 dawns.
“Don’t fly a drone that night,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters at a news conference. “If you fly one, there’s a good chance you’re going to end up getting arrested.”
Rogue drone operators recently crippled London’s Gatwick Airport for three days by sending the flying machines repeatedly into the airfield.
The security plan includes closing off the blocks around Times Square to traffic and deploying thousands of police officers, uniformed and plainclothed, in the crossroads and the surrounding streets.
Sharpshooters will take up positions on rooftops, and officers with long guns will stand guard at pedestrian checkpoints. Revellers will be screened before being admitted into security corrals for viewing the ball drop. Large bags and lawn chairs are banned.
Crews have even sealed shut manholes to prevent the sewers being used as a means of bypassing the checkpoints.
Police have also taken special precautions at high-rise hotels around Times Square, aiming to prevent any would-be attacker from using a hotel room as a sniper’s nest.
In October 2017, a man spent days amassing an arsenal in a hotel suite in Las Vegas before breaking a window and shooting into a crowd at a music festival, killing 58 people.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)