NEW YORK—New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says he wasn’t surprised about the Boston Marathon bombings—just that they didn’t happen sooner.
“When something like Boston happens, it’s a shock to the public psyche, but not to us,” Kelly said at the Atlantic’s New York Ideas Festival on Tuesday. “We thought something like this would happen sooner—we’ve seen these types of disaffected radicalized young men target us.”
Kelly, who created the country’s first municipal counterterrorism bureau in the wake of 9/11, said they have thwarted 16 terror plots since the attack on the World Trade Center, including one from Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, who pleaded guilty in February to plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank. The 21-year-old Bangladesh native was arrested in October in an FBI sting.
He also pointed to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who failed to detonate an explosive-laden SUV parked in Times Square in 2010.
“There’s a constant stream of individuals trying to come here and kill us,” Kelly said. There’s a “whole array of threats, and there’s been no diminishment.”
Kelly said “sheer luck,” combined with the city’s investment in counterterrorism—including a global intelligence network with New York City detectives stationed in 11 foreign cities—has helped, as have thousands of cameras positioned throughout the city.
“Our camerawork is very important,” Kelly said. The surveillance “smart” cameras, he added, are equipped with video analytics software that can detect, for example, someone leaving an unattended bag in a crowded street.
Kelly said the NYPD has been working with the Joint Terrorism Task Force to study the “process of radicalization” that turns “unremarkable young men” into terrorists.
“They indoctrinate themselves,” Kelly said. “Then they go into a jihadization stage … we’ve been looking at this.”
“New York is the No. 1 target in this country, and if you look at [terrorism] as theater, this is the world’s biggest stage,” he added. “So far so good, but there are no guarantees.”