WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester residents shouldn’t be alarmed if they see an increased police presence in their communities this holiday season.
Law enforcement agencies in state counterterrorism Zone 3 will be conducting ongoing safety checks of transit hubs and other locations in Westchester and Putnam counties as part of a program known as “Operation Safeguard,” from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.
These safety checks, known as “holiday taskings,” involve law enforcement officers conducting security checks of train stations, commuter parking lots, bus routes, shopping malls and public assembly areas.
The Zone 3 Committee Chairman, Chief Michael Cerone of the Irvington Police Department, stressed that the increased police presence is not because there is a new threat to the public’s safety; but simply part of the counterterrorism team’s strategy of continued vigilance.
"All the holiday seasons, even 9/11, we’ve instituted what we call “holiday casting” and this season it will run until Jan 2. It’s basically increased patrolling of transportation sites, critical infrastructure, shopping malls, religious observances- we’re just making sure there is an increased police presence at these locations," Cerone said.
Operation Safeguard, which has been in place since 2004, is designed to educate and remind citizens that the threat of terrorism is ongoing and continued vigilance is essential by the public, business sector and law enforcement. There are 16 counter-terrorism zones in New York State’s ongoing war against terrorism. Zone 3 is comprised of Westchester and Putnam Counties.
“The officers are looking for any suspicious activity that may be going on at these sites: packages, anything that’s left behind, questions people have about suspicious persons - all these things get rolled into this tasking,” Cerone said.
Cerone gave the following safety tips for dealing with suspicious individuals:
-Do not confront suspicious individuals.
-Do not reveal your suspicions to the individuals in question.
-Do record as many details as possible and notify local police as soon as possible by calling 911 or the Safe New York tip line at 1-866-SAFE-NYS.