LOWER MANHATTAN, Manhattan (WABC) -- Every New Yorker sees uniformed NYPD officers on the streets of our city each day. However, there is so much more that they do to keep people safe, including screening incoming ships for potential hazards like radioactive material that could be used to make a dirty bomb.
The boats officers patrol the New York Harbor in may look like any old police boat, but when protecting liberty and freedom, what you can't see is most important.
"This boat here is equipped with sensors on both sides of the boat - radiation sensors," said Lt. Patrick Golden of the NYPD Counterterrorism Maritime Division.
The built-in sensors alert NYPD Counterterrorism to radioactive materials that could be snuck in through the harbor.
"We have four cargo ports that get daily shipments of all types of materials," Sgt. Thomas Denicker of the NYPD Counterterrorism Maritime Division.
Eyewitness News reporter Anthony Carlo toured one of three police boats that scan container ships for materials used to make a dirty bomb. It's the first line of defense against another terror attack.
"We've seen in the past, terrorist groups have been trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons or components to make a dirty bomb which could cause extreme devastation to this city," Golden said.
From sonar on deck, to the sensors inside, the technology is key in preventing terrorists from using traditional explosives to spread radiation.
"Basically what this does is gives us our underwater view," Denicker said.
But the officers on top of the boat add an extra layer of defense, doing something that even those detectors can't.
"Our team would look every morning at the ships coming in," Golden said. "Where are they coming from? Are they coming from a conflict region? And those ships would get extra scrutiny."
It's just another day in the office for the only local law enforcement maritime unit fully dedicated to counterterrorism.
"We're here every day so the people of New York don't have to worry about this as much as we do," Denicker said.