Protecting Trump in Manhattan a ‘big challenge’

Security for US president-elect costing city $1m a day says Irish-American NYPD chief

Protecting US president-elect Donald Trump at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York with around-the-clock security has been a "big challenge", the city's Irish-American police commissioner James O'Neill has said.

The police chief told reporters at an Irish event last week that providing security to the incoming Republican president at his home and offices on Fifth Avenue near Central Park in Manhattan was costing money and taking resources from other parts of the city.

“It is a big challenge for the NYPD but again this is something that we do all the time,” he said, pointing to the Thanksgiving Day parade at Macy’s department store and the New Year’s Eve ceremony in Times Square as examples of large-scale events the city must police.

Mr Trump’s election and the subsequent demonstrations have put the already heavily congested area around Trump Tower under increased pressure.

A street running next to the building, 56th Street, has been closed to traffic since his victory on November 8th, creating traffic jams and crowded footpaths during the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas shopping period.

“There’s a lot of traffic, vehicular as well as pedestrian, but working with the Secret Service I am sure that we will come up with a very good long-term solution on it,” Mr O’Neill said.

Taoiseach at gathering

The commissioner was speaking at a large gathering of the Irish-American community in the Irish consulate in New York attended by Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Friday night. One of Mr O'Neill's predecessors, Ray Kelly, who was New York's police chief from 2002 to 2013, also attended.

The cost of protecting Mr Trump and his family in Manhattan is estimated to be more than $1 million (€940,000) a day, and he is set to continue costing the city money after he moves to the White House after his inauguration on January 20th.

Mr Trump’s wife Melania and son Barron (10) will continue living in Trump Tower until the end of the school year and the US president-elect has said he plans to spend part of his time living there after he takes office.

The police commissioner has said the city will be looking for reimbursement from the federal government “to get through it”.

Irish heritage

Mr O'Neill, whose grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the 1920s, said he would be proud to march up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan's famous St Patrick's Day parade in March for the first time as police commissioner.

Mr O'Neill came under pressure immediately after taking over the high-profile position. On his first day in the job in September, he had to deal with a bombing on a street in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan and two connected explosions in New Jersey. The sole suspect, an Islamic extremist, Ahmad Khan Rahimi was captured within 72 hours after a shootout with police.

"New York City is very safe," said the NYPD chief. "I think that every once in a while there are going to be incidents but we have capacity to deal with them."

Asked what advice he would give a mostly unarmed police force such as the Garda Síochána in dealing with the spate of deadly gangland violence in Dublin, Mr O'Neill said: "What works for us in New York City [is] we have something called 'precision policing'."

“We know that there are very few people involved in the violence and crime in New York City, and we identify them. And we put all of our resources to that end: conducting long- and short-term investigations and taking them off the streets.”