Police Arrest Owner of Suspicious Van That Shut Down Times Square

By Nicole Bode on December 31, 2009 10:09pm | Updated on January 1, 2010 12:08am

A bomb squad worker gives a thumbs up next to a suspicious van in Times Square.
A bomb squad worker gives a thumbs up next to a suspicious van in Times Square.
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Mariel S. Clark/DNAinfo

By Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Associate Editor

TIMES SQUARE — The owner of the suspicious-looking van that triggered a mass evacuation of Times Square the day before New Year's Eve celebrations has been arrested and charged with a felony, police said.

George Freyer, 36, of New Jersey, was hit with charges of possession of a forged instrument and other charges Thursday night after he used a bogus police placard in the windshield of his van to get away with leaving it for two days in a no-parking zone, police said.

Freyer’s white 1997 Dodge van was left on Broadway, between 41st and 42nd Streets, from Monday to 11 a.m. Wednesday, before security personnel at the nearby Conde Nast building alerted police.

The dilapidated van had no license plates, the windows were tinted and taped up from the inside, and the bogus parking placard was tossed in the front windshield.

The placard claimed to belong to a Detective in the crime unit of "Metropolitan New Jersey and New York," a nonexistent agency, police said.

The $20 illegal laminated placard was "clearly designed to try to avoid parking summonses," NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told the New York Times.

There was also a 2010 card on the dashboard from the Detectives Endowment Association, the NYPD’s detectives union.

Browne blamed the bogus placard as one of the reasons the van evaded suspicion for so long.

The NYPD blocked off Times Square between 40th and 44th Streets on both sides of Broadway and surrounding cross streets for close to two hours as Counterterrorism units scoured the area for explosives or other dangerous materials.

A robot was dispatched to the area before a bomb squad officer moved in and gave the van a thumbs-up.

Inside, police found a stack of knockoff scarves, a folding table, plywood and other trappings of a street vendor.

During the scare, buildings nearby, including ESPN Zone, Conde Nast and NASDAQ, were all forced to evacuate. New Year’s Eve ball drop rehearsals at the neighboring Times Square tower also had to be delayed as a result.

Police arrested van owner George Freyer, 36, of New Jersey, after his Dodge van triggered a mass evacuation of Times Square Dec. 30.
Police arrested van owner George Freyer, 36, of New Jersey, after his Dodge van triggered a mass evacuation of Times Square Dec. 30.
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Mariel S. Clark/DNAinfo

The false alarm also came on the heels of the Christmas day attempted terror bombing, in which a suspected Al-Qaeda member boarded a plane to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, tried to detonate the explosive as Flight 253 from Amsterdam began its final decent into the U.S.

Browne told the Times the NYPD added the placard to the list of bogus credentials, and was educating traffic agents about the proper use of placards.

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