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D.C., New York to help boost Amtrak security

(The Associated Press circulated the following article by Tom Hays on August 8.)

NEW YORK -- With the London bombings fresh in their minds, police along Amtrak's New York-Washington corridor joined forces Monday to begin patrolling the train platforms and watching for suspicious activity along the tracks.

There is no specific threat to Amtrak's most heavily traveled route, New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said. But in assessing security risks after bombers targeted mass transit in London, officials were concerned that a route involving "two high profile cities" might become a target, he said.

"It seemed to be a precaution that needed to be taken," Browne said.

Amtrak, which has only about 350 of its own police officers nationwide, welcomed the help, spokesman Cliff Black said.

The coordinated effort will include bomb-sniffing dogs, police helicopters and officers from cities including New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, as well as from state agencies in Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.

There will be no public schedule for the sweeps -- they have to be "unpredictable in order to defeat the kind of reconnaissance that al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations are known to conduct" -- and they will continue indefinitely, Browne said.

The NYPD first began doing sweeps of Amtrak trains leaving Penn Station bound for Washington on July 14 after suicide bombers struck in London. At times, officers have boarded trains to ask riders to be vigilant about reporting any signs of trouble.

In Washington, the Metro Transit Police Department has instructed employees to be vigilant along all rail corridors, whether Amtrak's or Metro's, and it is considering random bag searches, Officer Linda Foxwell said.

"We don't have jurisdiction in the Amtrak stations," Foxwell said. "But we certainly have done a lot to educate our riders about what they should look for, what they should report."

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

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