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NJ Transit prepares for terror

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on August 9.)

NEW YORK -- NJ Transit has sent an anti-terror video to its 3,000 rail workers, whose trains will undergo increased scrutiny during the upcoming Republican National Convention.

NJ Transit's trains stop in New York's Penn Station, directly below the Madison Square Garden convention site. The convention is scheduled to run from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.

The 15-minute video, "Warning Signs," was produced by the Federal Transit Administration and discusses how to recognize passengers and packages that might pose a threat.

Some conductors told The New York Times they worry they are being asked to act as law officers.

"The DVD was distributed to employees in the interest of giving them the tools they need to identify suspicious activity and report it," NJ Transit spokesman Dan Stessel said Monday. "Our goal was to empower our employees, not scare them."

The video asserts, "As transit employees, we are the first line of defense against those who wish to disrupt and disable America's public transportation system, so it is imperative that we know what to do if and when we encounter the warning signs of terrorism."

Stessel said the agency has had four meetings with union leaders, and will be conducting a third employee forum on security this week.

Steps being taken the week of the convention include inspections of New York-bound trains before they leave rail yards, and another inspection before they enter New York, Stessel said.

NJ Transit will also ban the use of overhead luggage racks, seal trash receptacles and close most bathrooms on trains, Stessel said.

Not all elements of the security plan for the convention will be disclosed, he said. "There will be a number of countermeasures that will not be visible to our customers, but will be there," Stessel said.

About 60,000 of NJ Transit's 100,000 weekday rail riders go into New York on about 280 trains.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

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