7061 East Pleasant Valley Road, Independence, Ohio 44131 • (216) 241-2630 / Fax: (216) 241-6516

Membership
Benefits
News and Issues
Departments
Information
Secretary-Treasurer
Merchandise
Communications
FELA
Events
Links
User Info

N.J. riders shrug off searches

(The following article by Toni Callas was posted on the Philadelphia Inquirer website on July 26.)

PHILADELPHIA -- NJ Transit officials described commuters as compliant and easygoing about the first random searches conducted yesterday in rail and bus stations around the state.

Riders on the River Line between Camden and Trenton seemed indifferent to the searches, which some critics contend will not deter a terrorist attack. Notices left on seats informed riders that the searches would be conducted indefinitely.

"I don't think about it that much," said Marietta D'Alesio of Bordentown. "I see officers around, and I trust God. If something is going to happen, it's going to happen."

After a series of bomb attacks in London, acting Gov. Richard J. Codey announced Friday that state-run NJ Transit would randomly search bags at train and bus stations. The first of those searches were conducted in Trenton and at Secaucus Junction.

Passengers who do not comply with searches are to be asked to leave the stations.

"Security experts and common sense tell us that this is not going to be an effective way to fight terrorism," said Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.

"You are just diverting police from other practices," she said, "and you are giving up your privacy, which you have a right to whether you are doing anything right or wrong."

An official in the state Attorney General's Office said the searches were legal because NJ Transit's methods provided "true, random selection" of bags.

"It's not decided by the officer on the scene," Assistant Attorney General Ronald Susswein said. "For example, on a particular day, they might be told to check every third person carrying a bag or package." The number is to be changed each day to keep riders from avoiding searches.

But officers also can challenge anyone who appears suspicious - for example, someone wearing heavy clothing on a hot day, Susswein said.

Late yesterday, the agency said, a 21-year-old man at the Hoboken terminal was arrested after police found fireworks in his bag.

At the Trenton station, Transit Officer Peter Jackson said the smoothness of the morning searches surprised him. He said there were no long lines or visible irritation as transit police, accompanied by dogs, inspected bags while commuters arrived between 6 and 8:30.

"It didn't slow anything down, and people seemed to be fine with it," Jackson said.

Amy Chesnov of Newtown, Bucks County, who arrived later in the morning, said she would not have minded a search.

"It's better to make sure everyone is safe, even if it takes a little bit longer for us to get where we are going," she said, pulling her luggage behind her.

About 780,000 trips are made each weekday on the NJ Transit system, agency spokesman Dan Stessel said.

SEPTA and Amtrak, which also operate out of the Trenton station, do not plan to begin random searches. Spokeswoman Tracy Connell said Amtrak might consider them in the future, and Gov. Rendell's office said the agency did ask for and get additional state police at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

Said SEPTA spokesman Jim Whitaker: "We don't think it's a good use of our police. We'd rather have them on patrol, able to check out packages and things left behind by people, and be able to move them around than have them stuck in one place."

There were no inspections yesterday at the Walter Rand Transportation Center in Camden, where PATCO trains also stop. PATCO officials said they were considering searches as they reviewed their security plans.

Yesterday's searches came four days after similar ones began on New York's subways, the Metro-North Railroad, and the Long Island Rail Road.

The NJ Transit system has been on level-orange alert since the first London bombing July 7. At a cost of about $100,000 a week, NJ Transit has doubled its police force and tripled its canine unit, Stessel said.

River Line passenger Shareeka Miller of Camden said she feared the smaller rail line might allow a terrorist to get through.

"The searches are fine," Miller said, "but here we've been on the train for an hour and I've seen no police."

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Like us on Facebook at
Facebook.com/BLETNational

Sign up for BLET News Flash Alerts

© 1997-2018 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen

 


Decertification Helpline
(216) 694-0240

Sign up for BLET
News Flash Alerts

DAILY HEADLINES

AAR reports rail traffic for week ending December 8, 2018
California legislators call on Amtrak to stop union-busting plan in Riverside
Amtrak’s call center workforce deserves better
Airline, railroad stocks getting crushed
NJ Transit is buying new rail cars
$15.6 million railroad facility opens Des Moines to global markets
VIA Rail orders 32 trainsets from Siemens Canada
Howard Street Tunnel expansion back on as CSX returns to table with $91 million commitment
NS formally announces move to city of Atlanta
Editorial: A letter from Roanoke to Atlanta about Norfolk Southern
Opinion: A free-market ‘yes’ to Texas high-speed rail
$45 million plan announced to put overpasses over NW Indiana railroad crossings
Railroad Retirement and unemployment insurance taxes in 2019
Get the latest labor news from the Teamsters

More Headlines