And suddenly, law enforcement agencies around the world face a new threat. So far, 84 people have died in the Nice massacre, including two Americans. Almost instantly, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered New York police to look out for suspicious trucks on the state’s transportation systems.
Cuomo ordered the New York State Police and Joint Task Force Empire Shield to deploy additional forces around New York City, while regional employees of the Department of Homeland Security stepped up security at New York airports, bridges, subways, and other mass transit systems.
The Nice attack was eye opener because it showed just how easily a fanatic can turn any truck into a weapon of terror. Not only that, but truck ramming attacks can be carried out by individuals with little to no formal militant training, like the Rochester pizza shop owner sentenced to 22.5 years in prison this March for providing material support to ISIS.
Although heavy trucks can be deadly under the best of circumstances (1,500 people die every year in driver fatigue-related crashes), the truck massacre in Nice proved that terrorists are finding new weapons to inflict mass casualties.
Although the Nice attack was the first of its kind, trucks have been used in terror attacks in New York before. The first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 involved a 1,500 pound bomb in the back of a rented truck. Timothy McVeigh also used a truck in the devastating Oklahoma City bombing two years later.
Although trucks have long been recognized as a potential threat, the most recent attack proves just how difficult it will be to stop similar attacks in the future. Trucks are everywhere, and they’re a vital part of the country’s transportation network.
As early as 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has been aware of the potential threat posed by large trucks: “Terrorists overseas have suggested conducting vehicle ramming attacks — using modified or unmodified vehicles — against crowds, buildings, and other vehicles…Such attacks could be used to target locations where large numbers of people congregate, including sporting events, entertainment venues, or shopping centers.”
France was already under an official state of emergency after earlier attacks in Paris, yet police were unable to prevent the Nice attacker from carrying out the deadly attack.
Still, the DHS does have a list of guidelines American citizens, mechanics, car rental companies, law enforcement, and anyone in the transportation industry should follow. Anyone who observes any of the following suspicious activity should contact the police immediately:
- “Unusual modifications” to heavy vehicles, such as reinforcing the front with metal plates or homemade armor
- The suspicious purchase or rental of heavy vehicles by customers who appear nervous, pay in cash, or lack experience with the vehicle in question
- Any attempt to infiltrate a no-traffic area where a large number of pedestrians are gathered for a special event