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NYPD raises concerns about nightclub terror

By Shawn Kay     Sep 22, 2011 in Crime
New York - The NYPD has teamed up with the city's nightlife association to update the 2011 edition of "Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments" to include anti-terrorism tips on suicide bombers for nightclub owners and staff.
The New York City Police Department has been working with the New York Nightlife Association (NYNA) to update the Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments to address current and pressing issues regarding the safety and security of nightclubs, bars and related establishments in the city. The Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments is a safety manual of sorts created by the NYPD and NYNA to assist the nightlife industry in enhancing safety and preventing illegal activity on their premises.
According to the NYPD, the handbook is meant to help keep patrons safe and prevent illegal activity.
The updated handbook, released this past Monday, includes a new and lengthy section on terrorism and anti-terrorism measures.
In a official public statement regarding the release of the 2011 edition of the manual and the added emphasis on anti-terrorism measures, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly was quoted as saying
We have included a substantial discussion of counterterrorism best practices for the nightlife industry, not to create alarm but to help owners and operators craft effective strategies for terrorism prevention and preparedness.
Reportedly, the NYPD decided to add the additional section due to the fact that an increasing number of bars and clubs abroad have been attacked or targeted by terrorists over the past few years.
Regarding the new section added by the NYPD addressing anti-terrorism measures, the manual had this to say (page 12)
This section is intended to provide information on counterterrorism planning to nightlife businesses. It is not intended to alarm or frighten, but rather to help New York City’s vibrant nightlife community achieve both safety and hospitality for its customers.
The manual also provides the NYPD's definition of terrorism (page 12)
Terrorist Strategy
Terrorism is a criminal act designed to manipulate an audience beyond the immediate victims. Terrorists seek to commit acts of violence that draw local, national, and international attention to their cause. Terrorists plan their attacks to obtain the greatest publicity and choose targets that symbolize the ideologies they oppose.
On suicide bombers it provided the following information (pages 13 and 14)
Identification of Suicide Bombers
A. Counterterrorism security plans should include training for all staff in the detection of possible suicide bombers. There are many factors which may create suspicion of this activity: inappropriate clothing for the season, time, place or circumstance; protrusions from the clothing; concealment of the hands; visible wires or tape; two or more people communicating and trying not to be observed; a suspect whose presence or behavior is inconsistent with the time or place; individuals who are obviously disguised; individuals with obvious signs of extreme stress or nervousness, such as bulging veins in the neck, profuse sweating, shaking hands, touching the face continuously, involuntary motions, apathy, distant stare or unfocused gazing, feeling the body continuously; and individuals whose speech includes stuttering, mumbling or chanting, or are hesitant or unresponsive.
B. Suspicious luggage or packages on an individual should also be noted. Indicia include: individuals holding luggage which is incompatible with the surroundings; holding a bag very close to the body or not releasing it when appropriate; weight of bag is obviously great; identical bags carried by several individuals; and bags with obvious irregularities.
C. In all situations, part of the counterterrorism security plan should be to encourage all security and establishment staff to trust their gut feelings. If they feel suspicious or uneasy about an individual or group of people they should bring that suspicion to the attention of a security supervisor with responsibility for counterterrorism security.
D. Terrorists are not confined to one ethnic or racial group. There have been documented terrorist attacks by individuals of a wide variety of backgrounds. It is therefore important to stress in counterterrorism planning the need to be vigilant and observe all people, and not to exclude individuals from suspicion because of their appearance. Personnel should be mindful of the increased participation of females in terrorist activity.
The safety manual also offers recommendations for collecting surveillance footage and evacuation plans.
The NYPD believes strongly the most likely method of attack by terrorists against a nightclub in New York will be that of a suicide bomber or car bomb.
The Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments manual can be accessed in it's entirety here.
Terrorists view nightclubs as "dens of immorality"
The NYPD's concerns over nightclubs in the city being possible targets for terrorism stem from recent attempted and successful attacks on nightclubs in other countries by Islamist extremists.
London in particular has had some notable experiences with regard to terrorist targeting of nightclubs.
In June 2007, a group of Islamic extremists, most of whom were British nationals, conspired to wage a campaign of terror throughout the United Kingdom. The men were inspired by religious ideology of an extremist vein and sought to carry out the attacks as a form of solidarity with Al-Qaeda in Iraq and out of protest over Britain's involvement in the occupation of Iraq.
Amongst the chosen targets were the Tiger Tiger nightclub in London's West End area. Radicals parked two cars filled with explosives in front of the club in the hope of killing club-goers.
However, there were technical difficulties with the car bomb and it failed to detonate as planned. Later, police discovered the car bomb, and were able to safely disable the lethal device.
In 2004, an Islamic extremist in Canada was arrested for colluding with counterparts in Britain to bomb The Ministry of Sound, London's largest and most popular nightclub.
The most devastating terror attack to ever take place against a nightclub occurred on the night of October 12, 2002, when the terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiah, an affiliate of al-Qaida, bombed two nightclubs in rapid succession in Bali, Indonesia (a third bomb was detonated at the American consulate but caused only minor damage and no injuries). The attacks killed 202 people, a further 240 were wounded. Many of those killed in the attacks were vacationing university students from Australia on a break from their studies. Seven Americans and two Canadian tourists were among the fatalities.
The Bali nightclub bombings was the deadliest act of terrorism in the history of Indonesia.
Islamist militants view nightclubs as "symbols of Western decadence."
Scantly-clad young women grinding close and hard against boisterous young men on a dance floor amidst a backdrop of pulsating lights, loud thumping music and free-flowing booze are all typical hallmarks of a Western-based nightclub. These same hallmarks are often what make Islamist militants denounce such places as "dens of immorality."
For most young men and women in their 20's and 30's in the U.S. and other Western societies, dancing the night away in nightclubs is a typical past-time and recreational activity or a way to blow off steam.
From the tactical standpoint of the terrorist, nightclubs are very good targets for a number of reasons. Most clubs in NYC are filled with hundreds of people in close proximity to one another. An explosive device detonated in such close confines would produce an especially high death toll and horribly maim countless others.
Even more, there is the secondary danger of people being stampeded by panicked crowds desperate to escape the club should a terrorist attack or even a non-terrorist emergency (i.e., a fire or a large fight) were to occur.
A stampede is always a looming danger whenever there are large numbers of patrons at a single indoor location for an event be it a nightclub, a concert hall or theater of any sort.
On the night of February 17, 2003, at the E2 nightclub located above the Epitome Chicago restaurant in Chicago, 21 people were killed and more than 50 injured in a stampede caused by crowds seeking to escape what they mistakenly thought was a chemical weapons attack on the club.
On that particular night, some patrons got into a physical altercation prompting club security to use pepper spray to stop the fighting. Club-goers, unaware that the bouncers were using pepper spray to quell a disturbance, began vomiting and having coughing fits. Some club-goers even fainted from the spray's noxious fumes. The crowd, fearful and unaware of what was actually going on all began to charge for the exits, knocking to the ground and stampeding many of their fellow club-goers in the process.
Club-goers and witnesses would later tell the news media that they thought terrorists were using poisonous gas to attack the club. Some club-goers reportedly heard someone inside the establishment say, "Bin Laden is doing this."
Safety Manual Also Places Increased Focus On Prevention Of Sexual Assaults
The 2011 edition of Best Practices for Nightlife Establishments also addresses more conventional and everyday issues affecting nightclubs like those of under-aged drinking and fights, guidance on responding to serious criminal incidents and crime scene preservation, the use of magnetometers and ID scanning devices by security. Even more, it includes suggestions for preventing illegal and dangerous activity in a nightlife setting and stresses the importance of a good relationship between the venue and it's local police precinct.
The handbook also has an increased section on how to prevent sexual assaults and includes tips for recognizing signs of intoxication.
New York Nightlife Association partnered with the NYPD after the deaths of Imette St. Guillen and Jennifer Moore, who were killed in separate incidents after a night out in city clubs several years ago.
At least 150 bars and clubs are members of NYNA. However, all 1,200 of the city's bars and clubs will receive the new safety manual regardless of if they are NYNA members or not.
While the guide is not a set of binding laws, Paul Seres, the president of NYNA, told the Manhattan online news site,, he believes many nightlife operators will follow it.
“I want my staff to have the best, most thorough, in-depth training," said Seres. "That way I can run a great establishment."
The NYPD and NYNA will conduct a series of training and orientation sessions throughout the city in the coming weeks to introduce the current edition of the safety handbook to nightclub owners, managers and security personnel. The training sessions will begin at One Police Plaza - NYPD Headquarters - on September 27, 2011, with similar sessions to follow in each of the city's five boroughs.
While there is an enduring general terrorist threat against nightclubs, authorities note that there is no intelligence at the moment to suggest that there is a specific threat against any particular club in New York City or anywhere else in the United States.
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