After 9/11, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority coined the slogan, “If you see something, say something,” and put it on posters encouraging subway and bus riders to call a police counterterrorism hot line if they encountered anything suspicious. Then, last July, the authority trumpeted results on new posters and in television ads: “Last year, 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.”
But the new posters, also placed in the commuter railroad trains, left out two things: What, exactly, did those 1,944 New Yorkers see, and what did they say? Presumably, no active terror plots were interrupted, or that would have been announced by the authorities.
Now, an overview of police data relating to calls to the hot line over the past two years reveals the answer and provides a unique snapshot of post-9/11 New York, part paranoia and part well-founded caution. Indeed, no terrorists were arrested, but a wide spectrum of other activity was reported. . .
Then there were the 11 calls about people counting.
Mr. Browne said several callers reported seeing men clicking hand-held counting devices while riding on subway trains or waiting on platforms.
The callers said that the men appeared to be Muslims and that they seemed to be counting the number of people boarding subway trains or the number of trains passing through a station. They feared the men might be collecting data to maximize the casualties in a terror attack.
But when the police looked into the claims, they determined that the men were counting prayers with the devices, essentially a modern version of rosary beads.
The counters are a common item in the Islamic shops on Atlantic Avenue in Downtown Brooklyn, where they sell for $5 to $8.
Ali Mohammed, 44, a Brooklyn grocery owner who was shopping on Atlantic Avenue recently, said many Muslims use a tally counter as they repeat the many names of God.