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For Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, expect tight security: NYPD

Revelers must enter through one of six checkpoints, and are not allowed to bring umbrellas, backpacks or large coolers.

Get there early and expect tight security if

Get there early and expect tight security if you're planning to attend the Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Getty Images/John Moore

In addition to street  closings, thousands of cops will swarm midtown on Wednesday ahead of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting as the department continues to update its counterterrorism methods.

Police said on Tuesday they expect about 20,000 people to turn out for the tree lighting, which is slated to glow at 9:30 p.m.  It will stay lit until 11:30 p.m., and will then be illuminated daily from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., remaining in place until Jan. 7.

NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said that while there are no specific or credible threats, thousands of police officers — including K9 units, mounted units and officers with long guns and on rooftops — will be deployed on Wednesday. He said the department will also use blocker cars, jersey barriers, concrete blocks and light towers.

Chief of Counterterrorism James Waters said the NYPD constantly assesses its response capabilities to the "current threat environment," including potential threats of active shooters, vehicle ramming and  improvised explosive devices. He said the department uses radiological detection technology, license plate readers and drone detection equipment to try to prevent  any threats.

"We  [started] taking a look at this year's event last year. As we were in the preparation stage last year and as the tree was about to be lit, we were already taking a look at what we could do differently or what we could do better to improve things that change," Waters said, adding: "We always take a look at how better we could position the police officers, the observation teams, the counter-sniper personnel... Do we have enough people in a particular area? Did we deploy appropriately? Did we have too much in a particular area where we can actually move it from one place to another?"

Waters said The NYPD will continue to partner with the FBI for drone detection. He also said the NYPD has taken a close look at the mail bombs that were sent last month to Democrats and critics of President Donald Trump, which, while he assured was an isolated incident, he said demonstrates the need for people to report suspicious objects.

"There's going to be cops everywhere tomorrow night. We could quickly have the bomb squad respond and identify and mitigate whatever it is," he said.

 Those who attend the lighting ceremony will need to pass through one of six screening areas (at 48th, 49th and 50th streets at both Fifth and Sixth avenues). There is a list of banned items, including umbrellas, large coolers and backpacks. Several streets will be closed to traffic starting at 3 p.m., including 48th, 49th, 50th, and 51st streets between Sixth and Madison avenues, and 47th and 52nd streets between Fifth and Madison avenues.

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