NEW YORK — When revelers pack Times Square for the annual New Year’s eve celebration tonight, police will observe a tradition of their own: giving them lots of company.

Each year, the New York Police Department assigns thousands of extra patrols to festivities — in ways seen and unseen — to control the crowd and watch for any signs of trouble. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world are expected to pack into the bow-tie stretch of streets in Midtown Manhattan to see the crystal ball drop and ring in 2013.

“We think it’s the safest place in the world on New Year’s Eve,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told The Associated Press.

Security in Times Square has become an obsession for the NYPD in the post-9/11 world, especially since the botched attempted car bombing there in the summer of 2010. More recently, details emerged in another case in Florida saying that one suspect considered Times Square a potential target.

“Times Square is an iconic location that draws a significant number of people every day,” Kelly said. “New Year’s Eve is the apex of that, so we have to plan accordingly.”

Kelly stressed that there are no specific terror threats related to a celebration televised across the globe. But believing that the so-called “Crossroads of the World” is always in the crosshairs of would-be terrorists, the nation’s largest police department has turned securing the event into a science.