Times Square Security Tightened Ahead of New Year's Celebration

PHOTO The first New Years Eve ball was made of iron and wood. Today
its Waterford crystal.PlayABC News
WATCH Ryan Seacrest Previews 'New Year's Rockin' Eve'

As hundreds of thousands of people prepared to gather in Times Square for the annual revelry at the "Crossroads of the World," New York City officials completed their preparation process: removing street furniture from the area (trash cans, mailboxes, newspaper racks); sealing 27- inch diameter, 197-pound manhole covers into their 395 pound frames; checking live camera feeds; and furnishing their command posts both on the scene and at police headquarters. They're also completing final duty rosters for the thousands of officers who will be on hand to keep revelers safe.

Federal and local intelligence and counter terror officials meanwhile told ABC News that there was no credible, specific terror threat timed to the celebration.

"We have no specific threats against the city on New Year's Eve," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "Anytime large numbers of people come together we put in our counter terrorism overlay. We have other events going on: we have a four mile run in Central Park at midnight; a fireworks display at Prospect Park in Brooklyn; fireworks by the Statue of Liberty; … So it's not just Times Square. But I can assure you we looked at all of these events closely. We will have several thousand police officers deployed. … We have every indication that it will be a safe and happy event. "

On Thursday, the New York City Police Dept. was putting the finishing touches on the "ring of steel" it uses to protect revelers: a security screen consisting of 17-plus miles of barricades; entrance point searches; video feeds; and uniformed officers spaced every few yards. There will also be numerous security measures not quite so apparent to the untrained eye that include chemical sniffers, biological sensors and handheld radiation wands and pagers.

On Thursday, bulldozers and sanitation crews were removing the final tons of snow from the areas where penned-in revelers will wait for hours for the famed ball to drop.

A few fun facts for them to contemplate perhaps as they stand with noise makers, hats, and masks, bodies pressed against barricades, huddled against the cold and in some cases perhaps with their knees held close together to prevent nature's urges from getting the best of them:

The ball weighs six tons and is twelve feet in diameter.

It begins its 60-second count to 2011 from a stanchion 400 feet above Times Square.

The ball consists of 32,000 lightbulbs.

90,690 feet of aluminum and wooden police horses have fenced the area in years past.

That 17.18 mile protective fence weighed in, when last tallied by ABC News, at more than 355,000 pounds.

Authorities Keeping Close Eye on Times Square

According to Jeffrey Strauss, of Countdown Entertainment, which runs the New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square, "When you come here, the energy is something that you've never experienced before and that's feeling of community. It's unique."

"When you're watching Times Square, you're seeing people kissing and celebrating and having fun. That's what New Year's is all about," Strauss said.

The city will not make an official crowd estimate. But in years past the estimates have ranged up to a million people. And worldwide electronic viewership has been estimated at a billion or more, Strauss said.

Officials charged with security are keenly aware of both last year's attempted Christmas airplane bomb attempt, and last spring's attempted Times Square bombing. They are deeply concerned that a stray backpack or plastic bottle containing a bomb, or bomb ingredients, could be slipped inside the police lines.

To keep partygoers safe, authorities have issued their annual reminders:

Backpacks and large bags are prohibited.

Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.

Property may not be abandoned at checkpoints.

Attendees who leave before the ball drops will not be able to gain entry to their original viewing area.

To enforce these rules and monitor for suspicious activity, there will be thousands of uniformed and plainclothes officers assigned to security Friday night, including officers armed with radiation detectors and others handling bomb sniffing dogs. Snipers and heavy weapons teams will also be on hand.

Security Ready for New York New Year's Eve

Outside of Times Square, special roving units will have citywide duty, ready to move to any other location deemed in need of a critical response. And inside of the frozen zone there will also be "flying squads" of detectives and specialists ready to swoop in on any suspected terrorist, nutcase, or common criminal.

In years past, there have been false alarms, including a threat passed on by Canadian authorities to the FBI that poison gas was hidden inside the pyrotechnics that would help ring in the New Year when they burst from the roof of Number One Times Square.

Never mind that fireworks 395 feet above street level would make a lousy mechanism for dispersing gas; a team of New York City cops climbed up, took samples, determined there was no threat and the revelries went on.

As the city slept in on Jan. 1, 2010, more than 150 members of the Dept. of Sanitation swept up an estimated 46.96 tons of confetti and debris in just a few hours. In 2009 officials estimated that cleanup cost was $54,000.