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In added security measure, officers are riding the rails

(The following article by Sewell Chan was posted on the New York Times website on July 8.)

NEW YORK -- The sprawling transportation systems of New York City were put on high alert after the bombings in London yesterday as the Police Department took the extraordinary step of assigning officers to ride every subway train in the city during the commuter rush.

Thousands of officers, state troopers and National Guard members descended on transit hubs, from the Staten Island ferry terminals to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Gov. George E. Pataki and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg reported that ridership was normal on subways, buses and commuter railroads.

It was impossible not to see the flurry of precautions, some of which - in the wake of train bombings in Moscow and Madrid last year - have begun to seem like elements of a grim routine.

The pledge to put an officer on every train meant that hundreds of extra officers would be in the subway system beginning with yesterday's evening rush, and continuing during today's peak travel periods. Two reporters who passed through nine trains last night observed uniformed officers on four of them; police officials said both uniformed and plainclothes officers were being used.

All officers on the midnight-to-8. a.m. shift were ordered to remain on duty after news of the London blasts, which occurred at 3:51 a.m. Eastern time. Officers at headquarters and from many units - including organized crime, internal affairs and the bomb squad - were told to put on uniforms and help.

Helicopters flew over the New York Harbor, the East River and the Hudson River. The Staten Island ferries were accompanied by police and Coast Guard patrol boats, while sea marshals with bomb-sniffing dogs rode other commuter vessels. Police checkpoints were set up in the financial district. The increased security was visible yesterday morning as far north as Albany, where sheriff's deputies walked through Amtrak trains when they stopped in the station and state troopers with bomb-sniffing dogs walked the platforms.

Some actions marked the many-layered approach to counterterrorism that has become part of the Police Department's post-Sept. 11 profile. Four detectives who focus on counterterrorism and intelligence were put on a plane to London to assist a New York City detective who is already stationed there collecting information that could be helpful to officials back home.

Officers were assigned to guard the British Consulate, inside an office tower on Third Avenue, where passers-by left bouquets of white and red roses. The Midtown building that houses the consulate was involved in grenade explosions on May 5, which was Election Day in Britain. Two small blasts shattered glass and tore concrete planters outside the building, and there were no injuries.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, speaking of yesterday's bombings in London, said: "There is no information to indicate that New York City is being targeted. The actions we are taking today are being done as a precaution."

Officers were sent to protect all sorts of infrastructure. Department of Environmental Protection employees guarded water tunnels and tested for possible contaminants. Truck traffic was diverted from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Manhattan Bridge, where some large vehicles were searched before they could cross.

Anthony R. Coscia, the chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the Lincoln Tunnel, said he visited the tunnel around 7:30 a.m. and saw the police stopping and checking trucks bound for Manhattan. "I think people are comforted by evidence that those in charge of security are doing all they can," he said.

New Jersey state troopers accompanied New Jersey Transit trains, and their counterparts in Connecticut could be seen on the New Haven line of the Metro-North Railroad, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Shortly before 6 a.m., Mr. Pataki signed an executive order authorizing state troopers from both New Jersey and Connecticut to ride commuter trains entering and leaving Manhattan.

Mayor Bloomberg was flying back to New York from the International Olympic Committee meeting in Singapore when he learned about the bombings by telephone. After his private plane landed, he went directly to a news conference at Grand Central Terminal where he joined Mr. Pataki and Mr. Kelly.

"I know New Yorkers are concerned that this type of attack could be replicated here in our city, but let me assure you, we are doing everything in our power to prevent that from happening," he said.

While most of the officials at the midday news conference focused on trying to reassure the public, James K. Kallstrom, a senior adviser to Mr. Pataki on counterterrorism, said the attacks "should be a wake-up call to the command in Washington."

Mr. Kallstrom, who once headed the F.B.I. office in New York City, said the federal government had not set aside enough money to protect mass transit - a view that was echoed by the American Public Transportation Association, which represents 1,500 transit agencies across the country.

At Pennsylvania Station, National Guard members patrolled ticketing and waiting areas and platforms used by Amtrak and the Long Island Rail Road. An announcement came over the loudspeakers: "Do not leave your luggage unattended at any time. No exceptions."

Reporting for this article was contributed by Patrick McGeehan, Colin Moynihan, William K. Rashbaum and Robin Shulman.

Friday, July 8, 2005

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