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On LIRR, caution rides the rails

(The following article by Joie Tyrrell and Cara Tabachnick was posted on the Newsday website on October 8.)

NEW YORK -- The Long Island Rail Road stepped up security Friday, with heavily armed officers on station platforms, undercover patrols aboard trains and police dogs, a day after New York City and FBI officials announced a terror threat targeting subways.

While the threat was not specific to the LIRR, railroad President James Dermody said additional uniformed and plainclothes officers patrolled trains throughout the system. And, police in both Nassau and Suffolk counties as well as in local villages have been assigned to watch stations and parking lots. Police also were posted at Penn Station and other major terminals, he said.

"There were police in almost all of our major stations this morning," said Dermody, who added he didn't know how long the increased security measures would last. "I told our employees this morning that we have to be prepared and be ready for any incident."

Patrols included Metropolitan Transportation Authority police as well as State Troopers and National Guard. Gov. George Pataki said Friday the state is calling up hundreds of Guard members to join troopers and MTA police on the mass transit system.

"We are undertaking additional measures to safeguard New Yorkers in light of this new information," Pataki said in a statement.

Part of Penn Station was shut for several hours Friday after a hazardous materials team inspected a soda bottle containing a suspicious substance near an Amtrak ticket counter. The railroad shares Penn Station with Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. LIRR officials said the investigation did not interrupt service.

"Somebody saw something in Penn Station that wasn't right and they took the appropriate action, that is the whole campaign," Dermody said, referring to the MTA's "If You See Something, Say Something" awareness campaign.

Amtrak officials said the substance posed no threat to passengers.

Dermody said police also increased canine patrols and said random bag checks will continue indefinitely. They were instituted in July after the London transit bombings.

Some commuters said Friday they will still take the train and be cautious but not frightened.

"I ride the trains every day. I have faith in the city and police department. The citizens are being protected," said Bhash Ramrattan of Uniondale, who was commuting Friday from Mineola to Penn Station. He also takes the subway.

Anthony W. Rocco, Nassau County deputy chief of patrol who coordinates homeland security, said commuters should be vigilant. He gave examples of suspicious behavior: people who appear nervous, constantly patting themselves or glancing continuously at a police officer; a person wearing a heavy coat on a warm day; or someone who puts a bag down and walks away.

Commuter Dennis Lucas, of Brooklyn, said the warning will not deter him from taking the train and subway.

"As New Yorkers, we cannot allow terrorist acts to stop our way of living. We have to get rid of the mentality of fear - Should I ride the train or not?" he said at the Mineola station. "I have to go to school. I have to go to work."

Monday, October 10, 2005

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