Terrorism? Yep, there’s an app for that

In the face of threatened terrorist strikes in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced new statewide efforts to mitigate the threat, including a technological weapon available to all mobile users.

In addition to the hiring of 46 additional Metropolitan Transit Authority police officers specifically to improve counterterrorism capabilities on the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North Railroad and the Staten Island Railway, Cuomo touted the activation of a New York State version of “See Something, Send Something,” a mobile app designed to facilitate real-time reports of suspicious activities.

The app allows users to send photos and written notes describing suspicious activities to the New York State Intelligence Center, a “fusion center” uniting the state’s Office of Counter Terrorism, the New York State Police Department and other state, federal and local agencies. The Intelligence Center can quickly disseminate a “See Something, Send Something” report and determine which enforcement agencies should be notified.

The app, available for free download on Apple and Android devices, also provides tips on what to look for and what sort of activities should be reported.

New York is the sixth state to introduce an official version of “See Something, Send Something,” which is already in use in Colorado, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, where it’s distributed as the “A Safer Ohio” app.

The program – produced by Pittsburgh-based My Mobile Witness Inc. – is not meant to replace the 911 emergency call system. It’s also not meant as a platform to express beliefs, ideas or other commentaries related to terrorism or any criminal activity, according to Cuomo’s office, but specifically to allow users to report suspicious activity such as unattended backpacks left on trains.

“The crime-solving, tip-sharing process is evolving,” New York State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico said in a statement. “Your tip could provide valuable information that could prevent a tragedy.”

The introduction of the app in New York will be accompanied by new public service announcements promoting the “See Something, Send Something” campaign, to be played at DMV offices, highway service areas and other public facilities throughout the state.

The 46 new MTA police officers will bolster what the governor’s office called “counterterrorism surge patrols” at Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal and on LIRR and other trains. The new hires are included in the MTA’s 2016 Final Proposed Budget, which goes before the MTA board in December – meaning the reinforcements aren’t likely to be patrolling the terminals or trains anytime this holiday season.

However, all 700-plus existing officers of the MTA Police Department have received special counterterrorism training, according to the governor’s office, including techniques on how to “immediately engage, pin down and neutralize” active shooters.

MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast called the MTA department a “robust force” and commended the officers’ dedication to protecting the region’s rail infrastructure and passengers.

“These dozens of new officers will bolster our regular counterterrorism patrols of high-visibility terminals,” Prendergast said. “Their presence in major train stations serves as a visible deterrent as well as a decisive factor in quickly countering any threat.”

Invoking the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris, in which ISIS militants armed with automatic weapons and explosives killed at least 130 people at six different locations around the French capital, Cuomo called the new app and the proposed MTA police hires “essential pieces in our fight against terrorism.”

“We have stepped up our preparedness in the aftermath of the Paris attacks,” Cuomo said. “We continue to remain vigilant against those who seek to spread fear and violence.”