New York authorities say they were tipped off Saturday night by a street vendor who noticed a Nissan Pathfinder in Times Square with its engine running and hazard lights flashing. Experts say it had enough explosive material inside to definitely cause casualties. So if the same truck were parked in downtown Houston, how would Houstonians react?
“The more these types of incidents occur the more people realize that we are at risk and I think the general public will pay greater attention, the more we see of these potential attacks.”
That’s Dennis Storemski the director of homeland security for the mayor’s office. He wouldn’t say specifically if Houstonians would be as concerned as New Yorkers, but he says there are plans in the works to increase public awareness of potential terrorist acts. Even before the New York incident, Houston was putting together a DVD dealing with that very subject.
“It’s going to be a general awareness DVD about what to look for, if you will, the multiple signs of potential terrorism and encouraging the public to essentially see something, say something, report suspicious activity to authorities.”
As for authorities being ready for a terror attack, Storemski says all the agencies are coordinating and working together.
“We share intelligence between the Department of Homeland Security and various entities within the region. And so we’re getting up today information from DHS about the event that occurred in New York City and we’re sharing that information.”
You might remember immediately after the failed car bombing New York authorities used downtown surveillance video to help with their investigation. Storemski says some 40 cameras have been installed in downtown Houston in the last six months and there should be around 200 of them by the end of the year. He says the cameras act as both a deterrent and a tool for investigators.
“Not just terrorism, but general crime. When people are aware that there’s potential video, it’s going to have a preventative effect. But I think the cameras we already have up have resulted in HPD making a number of car burglary arrests in the downtown area.”
But he stresses that you can’t rely solely on cameras. He says Houston authorities need the public to be just as alert as the people of New York.