Are New York Businesses Ready for the Next Terror Attack?

New York conducted a thousand counterterrorism exercises last year that gauged the ability of businesses to spot and report suspicious activity, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said Monday.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Counter Terrorism surged the number of exercises, which involve undercover counterterrorism experts posing as customers, by 56 percent since 2016, partnering with more than a hundred agencies to ensure the training extended to every county.

In addition to hitting retailers that sell chemicals needed for the construction of improvised explosive devices, the counterterror ops targeted:

  • 172 truck rental locations
  • 134 hardware stores
  • 111 hotels
  • 75 drone retailers
  • 69 gun and sporting goods stores

Exercises also focused on gathering places that could be attractive to someone planning a mass casualty attack, such as malls, stadiums, public transit, hospitals and colleges.

“New York State will never be intimidated by the threat of terrorism, but we will always be prepared when it rears its cowardly head,” Cuomo, who ordered expanded operations in 2016, said in a statement. “These exercises play a critical role strengthening law enforcement’s counter terrorism preparedness and serve as a reminder to businesses and the general public to stay alert and report suspicious activity when they see it.”

In this year’s State of the State address, Cuomo called for expanding the program even more.

Operation NY-SECURE also assessed the incident preparedness and security of Amtrak routes and MTA commuter lines, with six multi-station exercises along the Empire Service that runs from New York City to Niagara Falls via Albany. Fourteen exercises focused on other stations scattered throughout the state.

“Reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement is one of the most important ways the citizens of New York can contribute to public safety,” said Acting Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Patrick A. Murphy. “This education program underscores the fact that all New Yorkers have a role in preventing terrorism, and that businesses and their employees play a vital part in reporting suspicious activity.”

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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