Just after dawn, more than 75 police cars race to Times Square, lights flashing, then converge in what's called "combat fashion." Each backs halfway onto the sidewalk in a daunting show of municipal muscle and readiness.
Across town on the Gowanus Expressway, three heavily armored SUVs suddenly pull over. Helmeted antiterrorism officers jump out and survey the Brooklyn scene around them, guns cocked and ready.
Meanwhile, in Lyon, France, a New York Police Department detective is being briefed on Interpol's latest terrorist intelligence and immediately relays it back to One Police Plaza in Manhattan.
NYPD intelligence gathering and drills such as these happen every day. Five years after 9/11, New York has emerged as an international leader in urban security and counterterrorism measures. On any given day, more than 1,000 uniformed officers are tasked with ensuring that New York City – still the world's No. 1 terrorist target, according to analysts – is doing everything in its power to prevent another attack. Indeed, the city's police department has developed a wide variety of tactics, from positioning detectives abroad to reaching out to the Muslim community at home.
Terrorism experts applaud the city's approach in part because of this comprehensive nature. That reflects a growing consensus among security analysts that five years after 9/11, the United States must readjust its thinking and behavior in the fight against terror: It should not only continue to implement on-the-ground security measures, they say, but it should also reaffirm and cultivate bedrock American values that could counterbalance terrorist efforts.
"In the final analysis, our security is not going to be a matter of barriers and bollards and electronic surveillance or keeping shampoo from carry-on luggage," says terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, who created the terrorism unit at RAND Corp. more than 30 years ago. "It is really going to be found in our own courage and our continuing commitment to our own values and the rule of law – our sense of community, our tolerance, our historic traditions of self-reliance and resilience."
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