Food Trucks May Pose Terrorist Threat, NYFD Says

Elizabeth Harrington | October 24, 2012 | 11:36am EDT
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(Photo from the New York City Food Truck Association)

( – Food trucks parked along many New York City streets pose a potential terrorist threat, says the New York Fire Department (NYFD).

The NYFD’s Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness detailed the possible dangers in a Sept. 14 memo, which was released by Public Intelligence, an open source research project, on Monday.

Entitled “Food Trucks: A Transient Hazard,” the NYFD shares its concerns about food trucks having the capacity to carry not just food, but large amounts of explosive fuel.  Since most of the trucks are found in “high profile locations” -- areas near high-rise office buildings with large amounts of pedestrian traffic -- the NYFD concludes that food trucks could have terrorist implications.

The city issued 3,100 permits for food service trucks in 2012. NYFD reports that there is also a black market for permits, which allow the trucks to carry two 20-pound propane cylinders.

Trucks may also have multiple gasoline-powered generators, which can easily be concealed, the NYFD report noted.

The Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness says food trucks could also be used for surveillance by terrorists planning an attack.

“According to [a] DHS document, a food cart can be used as an excellent surveillance platform due to their access and long duration stays,” the memo states.

FDNY’s concerns about the trucks go beyond terrorism: It cites the case of a food truck’s propane tank exploding in New York City in April 2011 when a car accidentally hit it. The fire burned two workers.

Lt. Timothy Carroll, a 15-year veteran of the FDNY who works in the intelligence branch of the Center for Terrorism and Disaster Preparedness, wrote the memo.

Vehicles have been used in terrorist plots before.  An attempted car bombing in Times Square proved unsuccessful on May 1, 2010 when a homemade bomb made of gasoline, propane, firecrackers and alarm clocks failed to explode in a Nissan Pathfinder.  Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-American, was arrested and authorities said the Pakistani Taliban was involved.

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