The New York Police Department’s (NYPD) counterterrorism unit, considered the “first line of defense” against potential terror attacks, is bracing for significant staffing cuts of up to 75%, a move that has raised concerns about the city’s preparedness for security threats.
The impending downsizing was disclosed in an internal memo from Deputy Chief Scott Shanley, the commanding officer of the Critical Response Command (CRC) unit, which left its members concerned about the consequences.
“Today, I was informed that our unit will be downsized significantly, by up to 75%,” Deputy Chief Scott Shanley wrote in the memo. “Though we are still in efforts to reduce this number, whatever the outcome, many home/personal lives will be affected nonetheless.”
The announcement comes amid a broader budget crisis facing New York City, as Mayor Eric Adams seeks to allocate resources to address the influx of migrant asylum seekers from the southern border.
The mayor previously warned of a “financial tsunami” that would impact various government services.
The CRC unit, consisting of 300 police officers, has been a vital component of New York City’s counterterrorism efforts.
However, as many as 240 officers could be reassigned to street-level patrols to address staffing shortages in other precincts. Additionally, the unit’s 60 supervisors may be reduced to just 10.
Despite the internal memo’s warnings, an NYPD spokesperson stated that there are no immediate plans to reduce counterterrorism staffing during the ongoing United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York.
“We have not committed to altering the size of any unit, and certainly do not plan to modify components of our intelligence and counterterrorism apparatus during the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly,” Deputy Commissioner Tarik Sheppard explained.
The financial strain on New York City, exacerbated by the ongoing migrant crisis, has prompted Mayor Adams to estimate a staggering $12 billion in costs.
The city’s shelter system has been particularly overwhelmed by the influx of asylum seekers.
While illegal border crossings temporarily decreased after new restrictions were introduced by the Biden administration in May, the numbers have once again risen, primarily driven by families with children.
In August, there were over 91,000 arrests of migrant families crossing the border illegally from Mexico, with such families now accounting for about half of all arrests in this category.
New York City alone has received at least 110,000 asylum seekers since spring 2022, with nearly 60,000 temporarily residing in government shelters.
Mayor Adams has appealed to President Biden’s administration for federal relief to address this situation.
The potential slashing of the CRC unit’s staffing by 75% has raised concerns about the city’s security, especially at high-profile events such as the U.S. Open, New Year’s Eve in Times Square and visits by dignitaries and the president.
The unit, established eight years ago, has been a symbol of New York City’s dedication to counterterrorism efforts.
A retired CRC supervisor highlighted the unit’s deterrent effect: “There is no exact way to say if our unit deterred terrorist attacks. However, in the eight years since our inception, there were no terrorist attacks.”
The exact timeline for potential personnel changes remains unclear.
Additionally, plans to relocate 18 K-9 units to a facility on Randall’s Island that was intended for CRC use are likely to be scrapped, with narcotics officers or members of the Emergency Service Unit expected to take over the responsibility for these police dogs, police officials say.
The changes also extend to equipment, with the unit’s order for new helmets canceled, despite recent acquisitions of heavy bulletproof vests for events like the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
According to the NYPD, CRC officers are known for their specialized training in handling special weapons, long-range guns, explosive trace detection, radiological and nuclear awareness, biological and chemical weapons awareness and their ability to detect and respond to impending attacks.