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Drones will watch over Times Square during New Year’s Eve ball drop — a security first

With drones monitoring Times Square on New Year's Eve for the first time in its history, the New York Police Department says the iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop will be the safest place on Earth to celebrate the new year.

This year's festivities come days after a machete attack at a rabbi's Hanukkah party in nearby Monsey – the 13th attack motivated by anti-Semitism in three weeks – prompting NYPD officials to amp up police presence in places of worship.

Thousands of police officers in plainclothes and in uniform will descend on Times Square on Tuesday to keep watch over the ball drop, beginning at 11 a.m. EST to guide attendees through to their viewing spots.

Starting at 4 a.m., Times Square cordoned off traffic around the area.

The NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism, John Miller, said that overlaying various security procedures – including bomb-sniffing dogs, long guns and other counterterrorist units –  gives police “multiple chances to catch something coming through.”

“Times Square is probably going to be the safest place on the planet Earth on New Year’s Eve because nobody else puts that kind of effort into an event like this,” Miller said.

As in years past, officers will be setting up checkpoints to wand individuals with a metal detector before guiding them to one of 65 viewing pens to observe the ball drop.

Backpacks, large bags, umbrellas, personal drones and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, and bathrooms are also not available, per a statement from the NYPD. Bathrooms are also not available in Times Square. Anyone who leaves after being screened will not be let back in.

Individuals will also be prohibited from discarding items at security checkpoints.

As further precautionary measures, manhole covers will be sealed throughout Times Square, and radiation detectors will be deployed.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea confirmed that there are no specific, credible threats to this year’s festivities.

For New Year's Eve 2019, the weather forecast in Times Square is expected to be milder with some clouds – a far cry from years past, which proved to be tough for both NYPD officers and for the viewing public.

The 2018 ball drop was intended to be the first year drones were used to monitor New Year's festivities, but inclement weather forced NYPD to nix their plan. Meanwhile, 2017 proved to be one of the coldest in recorded history. 

 Contributing: Michael R. Sisak, Associated Press

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