Part of New York City’s new effort to better defend against terrorism will include the introduction of machine-gun toting NYPD “Torch Teams” in the city’s subways.Mostly a deterrent move. It requires the right balance. The deterrent effect won't be maximized unless the Torch groups have enough of a public presence to cause a potential adversary to seriously consider the possibility of running into them during the planning or operations of an attack. If an intervention doesn't have enough of a presence to change the adversary's risk calculus, then it's just theater.
In addition to the automatic weapons, the teams will also be patrolling subways with bomb-sniffing dogs. They will be outfitted with body armor as well. Beginning Thursday they will board trains and patrol platforms in Penn Station, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square.
On the other hand, if you go too far, you alter public perception in negative ways - making the city seem like an armed compound, which must be unsafe because all these guys are walking around with automatic weapons, right?
Update 2008-04-25: Newsday has the staffing figures:
Five or six teams -- six police officers and a dog -- each day will patrol heavily used subway stations and lines as part of Operation TORCH...
Friday, April 25, 2008