NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York police intensified patrols of tourist sites, parking garages and the transit system on Friday after explosives experts in London defused a potentially devastating car bomb in the heart of the city.
New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said critical response teams reinforced crowded areas like Times Square, the bustling theater district and a square near the Empire State Building that is a magnet for tourists.
“We are increasing our coverage in the transit system, certainly for this rush hour this afternoon,” Kelly told reporters. “We have vehicle checkpoints that we have instituted on bridges. We’re checking parking garages, asking the owners and doing it ourselves, to look for suspicious vehicles.”
New York normally puts police on heightened alert in response to security incidents in other countries.
The city has twice been attacked by Islamic extremists -- a truck bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the attacks of September 11, 2001 -- and has police representatives in hot spots around the world, including London.
“We’ll take a little bit of extra precaution,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on his weekly radio show. “We’re going to ramp up a little bit, not dramatically. Some you will notice, some you will not.”
Bloomberg said the city was awaiting a report from its London-based officer.
British police said the car bomb in London’s busy theater district could have caused huge loss of life. Gasoline, gas and a large quantity of nails were found in a green Mercedes car parked outside a night club shortly after 1 a.m. (midnight GMT). Several hundred people were still in the area, about half-a-mile from the prime minister’s Downing Street residence.