Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thwarting Terrorism in “24” vs. Real Life in Times Square

If you’re watching “24” this season, you know that midtown Manhattan, near the UN, was threatened by a radiological device. The situation was somewhat similar to the car bomb, though not radioactive, found in Times Square on Saturday.

There are many similarities, but, unfortunately, many differences. On “24,” the fictional anti-terrorism agency, CTU, has far more high tech surveillance at its disposal. Producers portray New York City as having cameras on every street, radar detectors all over the place and 3-D schematics of every building. It seems, in TV land, as if anyone can be tracked at any time.

Now, over to real life. According to today’s newspaper reports, the NYPD is only in the planning stages of a security system that would be able to read all license plates on cars traveling between 34th and 50th Streets. The system would also have chemical, biological and radiological sensors. The program is not in place and more funding is needed to complete it, probably around $50 million. Other reports speak of body-temperature scanners that can detect explosives underneath clothing; they’re reportedly available but not in wide use in NYC.

This is disappointing news to those of us who watch TV and particularly those of us who watch TV and spend time each day in midtown Manhattan, unequivocally a number one terrorism target.

It’s always been fun to fantasize about the gizmos and gadgets in fiction that we’d like to see in the real world. Calling Dick Tracy. And, some have become reality. For the sake of millions of people let’s hope government officials see the seriousness of the situation and commit the funding. It’s clearly more than fun to fantasize, it could be lifesaving.

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