Are Food Trucks A Terrorist Threat? The FDNY Thinks So.

This may sound like an article in The Onion, but it’s all too real.

According to the NYFD, food trucks are a potential terrorism threat, “A Transient Hazard”.

As we read in Gizmodo, an internal-use-only document obtained by Public Intelligence says the NYFD is concerned about the increasing number of food trucks around New York. Not only are they serious fire hazards—with large propane and gasoline tanks—but also a genuine terrorist threat.

Now it would be easy to get snarky about this, but nobody ever won an argument with the NYFD or NYPD by being snarky. You need to make sensible points. (Plus you don’t want them showing up at your door in the middle of the night to “question” you.)

FDNY says there are 3,100 food truck permits issued by the city, with that number increasing every year. There’s also a growing black market for permits, which opens the door for potential terrorist groups to obtain a truck with ease.

Not true! There are 3,100 food vendor permits in total, which includes hot dog carts, coffee & bagel carts, fruit stands, food carts, ice cream trucks like Mr Softee, and foods trucks. There are only about 90 food trucks between Midtown and the Financial District, with more in some residential areas like Washington Heights and Corona.

In addition, the number is not increasing every year. Street food advocates have been clamoring for an increase in the number of Mobile Vendor Permits for several years now, but  NYC has shown no inclination to do this.

So what is the sensible thing to do? Increasing the number of Mobile Vendor Permits would actually address a couple of issues.

A significant increase in the number of Mobile Vendor Permits would cut out black market activity. If the city charged a little less than black marketeers, it could also become a nice revenue base. More control over who gets a permit would also be obtained by having license owners deal directly with the city.

Increasing the number of inspections would also help on the terrorism front. Just like there  is increased vigilance by bridges and tunnels for all trucks, random spot inspections could help deter potential terrorists. Not by the Health Dept, but by the NYPD and/or NYFD. They could do quick, random inspections that are a lot less intrusive than what the Health Dept does, which is about food safety.

FDNY officials claim that the truck size and the number of modifications in them would allow a terrorist to install a large bomb and drive it into “high profile locations”, “high pedestrian traffic areas” and “high-rise office buildings,” where they can inflict heavy damage. From what we see in the Middle East, that’s true of any car or truck.

If someone is serious about killing people, buying a food truck, getting it licensed, outfitting the truck, and coming up with a viable menu to attract customers seems like a pretty tough way to do that. Renting a regular truck is much easier.

It’s ironic that Schnitzel & Things is shown in the first slide. A couple of years ago, the NYPD chased them away from the Citicorp Bldg. The reason given – they were a terrorist threat. No, we’re not kidding!