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Report: Connecticut rail yards have major security flaws

(The Associated Press distributed the following article on April 29.)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Train yards in New Haven and Bridgeport have major security problems two months after federal Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge asked rail operators to be on a heightened state of alert following the Spain train bombings that killed 191 people, WTNH-TV reported Thursday.

A reporter and cameraman walked into the New Haven rail facility at 3 a.m. on a recent day and found no security or police guarding the Metro-North trains that carry nearly 40,000 Connecticut commuters into New York each weekday. They walked past a sign reading, "Be Prepared to Stop - ID Required."

No one stopped the news team, which was able to walk around the rail yard for about two hours, the station reported. The reporter, Alan Cohn, climbed aboard one of the engines.

"Again, nobody has even seen us here or stopped us or asked us what we're doing," Cohn said in Thursday's report. "As far as we can see, we're all alone."

The television station found a similar lack of security at the Bridgeport rail yard.

Henry Harris of the state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for securing the rail yards, acknowledged a problem with security.

"All I can say is a picture is worth a thousand words," Harris said after watching the station's video footage. "You obviously were able to get into the yard obviously to do this and it's a problem."

When Cohn asked Harris that it appeared to be too easy to sabotage the trains, Harris replied, "I can't argue with that. You have pictures"

The station also found holes in fences around the rail yards.

At the Bridgeport rail facility, there was also no signs of security.

"The fact is we're way behind in rail security," says Howard Safer, New York City's former police commissioner who now runs his own security firm.

While the need for better security is obvious, Safer said, getting the money to improve security is difficult.

In the meantime, Safer said, "We have to be lucky. That's scary."

It's the job of Metro-North and Metropolitan Transit Authority police to patrol the rail yards.

Metro-North President Peter Cannito promised that changes would be made.

"If our employees are vigilant, they will call police and the police will stop you."

"Are you saying your employees were not vigilant?" Cohn asked.

"Well, apparently, if you were out there for two hours and nobody reported you, yes. They weren't watching. Now we have programs to educate them and to keep vigilant."

Friday, April 30, 2004

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