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Security cut back at weigh stations, on trains

(The following article by Mark Ginocchio was posted on the Stamford Advocate website on September 15.)

STAMFORD, Conn. -- In the wake of the Republican National Convention, state truck weigh stations will no longer operate around the clock and security aboard trains and on platforms has been decreased at Gov. M. Jodi Rell's request.

State troopers will be deployed "more selectively" aboard Metro-North Railroad trains and Connecticut National Guard units are no longer patrolling platforms, said Dennis Schain, spokesman for the governor. Weigh stations will resume their regular schedule.

Security was increased at the beginning of August in response to a heightened terror alert in the metropolitan area. Because of political conventions in Boston and New York City, Rell enhanced state police presence on the highways on trains to survey what was coming in and out.

The amount the state had spent on transportation security during August was unavailable yesterday, Schain said.

State police knew from the onset of Rell's directive that the major part of their surveillance would end once the conventions were over, said Sgt. Paul Vance, state police spokesman. However, there still will be police presence on some trains.

"Even when we escalate to orange alert and that changes back, we never just unplug and stop," Vance said. "It happens gradually."

Before the Republican convention, Vance estimated the added train security would cost the state about $55,000 and said continuation of the patrols into September would probably raise that total slightly.

The weigh stations had been opened 24 hours a day checking trucks for security threats and other violations. The stations were only closed if there was an overflow of trucks onto the highway that would seriously affect traffic.

Michael Riley, president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, said it's "better to be safe than sorry," but he wondered why the weigh station in Greenwich was on such tight surveillance.

"The station is coming outbound from New York. It's not like it's going into the city," Riley said. "I don't know how that's tied to the convention."

Despite the security downgrades, Rell announced yesterday that a $241,387 federal grant was awarded to the state's Office of Police Officer Standards and Training Council, based in Meriden, to help train police officers to prevent and respond to terrorism. The state added $80,463, bringing the total to $321,850.

The grant will help fund municipal police officers statewide, Rell said in a statement.

But some think there is considerably more that can be done to secure the state, including keeping weigh stations open more frequently.

"The fact the weigh station is not used more frequently is a short-sighted ill-advised policy decision by the state," state Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford said. "It promoted safety, enhances security and reduces vehicular violations."

Adding police presence to trains and weigh stations may serve as a deterrent but "it does not equate full safety," McDonald said. The ports and trains remain vulnerable because the federal government has not allocated enough money for security, he said.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

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