NEW YORK (AP) – Hundreds of extra police officers will remain deployed in Central Park during the dismantling of “The Gates” to keep souvenir hunters at bay, officials said Friday.

The show of force should discourage anyone from thinking “that because the event is ending … (the gates) are available for the taking,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters following a promotion ceremony at police headquarters.

“The Gates,” by the artist team of Christo and Jeanne-Claude, has attracted tens of thousands of visitors to Central Park to see 7,500 gates draped in “saffron-colored” panels spanning 23 miles of footpaths.

Police have teamed with park enforcement and private security to protect the installation during its 16-day run. Surveillance cameras, including some in helicopters and high-rises on the park’s perimeter – have sent live feeds of “The Gates” to a police command center.

Vandalism has been minor: Someone scribbled “art?” on the bases of a few of the 16-foot gates. Others gates had some of their material cut away. No one has been arrested.

About 300 workers will begin breaking down and removing the installation on Monday, a process that’s expected to take about two weeks.

The artists have devised an ambitious recycling program. The more than 5,200 tons of steel used to make the bases for the gates will be melted down and turned into various products. The fabric panels will be “remanufactured” into nylon thread.

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