Parked van sparks bomb alert in Times Square

By Calvin Palmer

Office buildings in New York’s Times Square were evacuated and streets cordoned off this morning while police investigated a suspicious parked vehicle.

The white 1992 Dodge van was spotted by officers around 11 o’clock.

“Its presence in Times Square, just before New Year Eve, causes us concern,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne of the NYPD. “That’s why we’re taking extra precautions.”

The vehicle was parked on the west side of Broadway, just south of West 42nd Street, and may have been there since Monday, police sources said.

Its windows were covered with a tarp. The vehicle identification number was obscured from view, and a phony police placard was on the dashboard.

NYPD Bomb Squad used a robot that is operated remotely and equipped with a camera to get near the van to look for explosive devices.

The Nasdaq and Condé Nast buildings were evacuated as a precaution and subway trains were diverted from Times Square station.

At about 1:00 p.m., police re-opened the streets and traffic began flowing again.

Police in New York are on high alert ahead of New Year’s Eve when a million revelers are expected to pack Times Square to see the crystal ball drop to mark the start of 2010.

[Based on reports by the New York Daily News and AFP.]

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