HARTFORD (CBS Hartford) – With no arrests made and a $5,000 reward still being offered, the mystery continues on who replaced American flags with bleached white flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Appearing on “CBS This Morning” Friday, New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton explained that the NYPD has “a very good idea” of who was involved in the incident and that the prank could be viewed as a serious security threat.
The incident has raised questions as to how secure New York City truly is and if this has shown terrorists that the US is vulnerable to another attack.
“The bigger issue is that there is always going to be some vulnerability in security,” terrorism expert Tony F. Lemieux, Ph.D., told CBS Hartford. “The Brooklyn Bridge has symbolic value to the city because it’s an iconic landmark. It’s also near the World Trade Center. Things having particular symbolic values are always going to be a target.”
Lemieux, who is a researcher with the National Center for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, explained that police should be now mindful of the vulnerabilities that the incident has presented.
“I think it’s something police should be mindful of,” Lemieux said. “And also an example of something that prompts our officials to take a harder look. Not just from a terrorism angle, but a safety perspective. How could somebody climb on top of the Brooklyn Bridge and do that?”
He added that the NYPD has done a really great job overall.
“Anytime you have a huge population like New York City, there is going to be massive efforts to have protective measures in place for overall security,” Lemieux stated. “There’s always going to be some potential for someone to come up with something like that. Going up and replacing a flag is a lot different than someone going up with a huge amount of explosives that would be capable of doing harm to the structure itself.”
Rick C. Mathews, the Director of the National Center for Security & Preparedness (NCSP) at the University at Albany, State University of New York, explained that there are a lot of layers of security.
“Not every single inch of the city is secure and that’s one thing,” Mathews told CBS Hartford. “There are layers upon layers of security, layers upon layers of planning. Just because people may be able to defeat one layer, I don’t think it’s a thing of New York City nor does it possess a big threat.”
Mathews said that the fact that someone was able to climb the Brooklyn Bridge and replace the flags is embarrassing.
“There’s some of the best security around the world in New York City, but this incident should make you embarrassed,” Mathews said. “People climb the top of buildings, and jump off of them all the time. I mean climbing bridges is not rare. It happens. The fact that these guys changed the flags makes it unusual. I think there are bigger security breaches that happen across the country every day that no one knows about. It’s embarrassing.”
He added that it could be a bigger threat, but that it’s very unlikely.
“Some of the public may think it’s not secure, but I don’t think that’s accurate,” Mathews shared. “I would guess that’s not going to happen again easily. This doesn’t scare me and doesn’t really worry us that someone is able to do this. It’s not a sign that the city in anyway at all has lack of security. This is a fluke and an embarrassment.”
Bratton noted that the NYPD has increased security on the iconic bridge and that “exhaustive efforts” are being put into the investigation of the incident. He added that they have a “pretty good idea of who was involved.”
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