Originally Published:Friday, September 9th 2011, 10:08 PM
Updated: Saturday, September 10th 2011, 8:25 PM
NYC police step up safety measures by searching cars, trucks and especially vans as they enter Times Square.
Cops are searching for three stolen construction vehicles as part of their sweeping lockdown of the city amid fears of an Al Qaeda car bombing plot timed for the 10th anniversary of 9/11 on Sunday.
The vehicles – two of which belonged to Tully Construction in Queens, a company doing roadwork on West St. near 1 World Trade Center – were swiped earlier this month, a police spokesman revealed Saturday.
On Sept. 1, a dark green Chevy van with a 2-inch horizontal stripe and a yellow turret light was boosted from a construction site at the westbound onramp of the Long Island Expressway. Police said the driver left the vehicle temporarily to talk to coworkers when it was stolen.
The next night at 9:30, three men broke into a construction locker at a Tully storage facility on Ditmars Blvd. and loaded roughly $70,000 in tools and construction equipment into the stolen van and another vehicle, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said.
He cautioned that there were no concrete ties to the reported anniversary attack plot.
“This may very well be industrial savvy thieves looking to steal expensive construction equipment, but it’s receiving greater scrutiny because of the threat environment,” Browne said.
A worker at Tully Construction headquarters Queens who refused to give his name said the company management told employees to be sure to carry ID when they drive around in company vans in case they were stopped by police.
“We are working on 9A right now in front of the World Trade Center. There are guys constantly driving their own cars and company vans on and off [the job site,]” he said. “If somebody’s that smart, it’s scary. It’s kind of freaky to think that someone would think it through that much and plan a terrorist attack like that.”
A third van, a white Econoline Budget Rental truck stolen from Liberty Storage in Jersey City on Aug. 20, is also being eyed for possible ties to the bomb threat. Thieves disabled the burglar alarm, cut the phone lines and took surveillance tapes along with the vehicle.
“They made a considerable effort not to be detected,” Browne said.
The thefts of construction vehicles surfaced as senior officials told the Associated Press there is no evidence that Al Qaeda operatives have slipped into the country.
Officials have been on high alert since Wednesday over “specific and credible” information about a plot involving three veteran terrorists recruited by Al Qaeda and carrying U.S. passports. The plot was planned for Washington or New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, investigators told the Daily News.