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TSA, New York state police join commuter rail security effort

(The Associated Press circulated the following article on March 21.)

NEW YORK -- The agency best known for enforcing security at the nation’s airports will soon be sending its marshals onto New York’s commuter railroads.

The Transportation Security Administration is among several policing agencies that will boost the law enforcement presence on the Metro-North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road and the Staten Island Railway, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Wednesday.

”This combined deployment of MTA police and officers from a variety of federal and regional sources will give our commuter railroads the kind of police presence our customers deserve and the post-9/11 environment requires,” said Elliot G. Sander, the MTA’s executive director.

Citing security concerns, officials would not say how many new officers would be patrolling the trains and platforms, but MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said the number would be “dramatically higher.”

The new security plan is called the Directed Patrol Strategy. It began last week with a new deployment plan for MTA officers and 50 dogs trained to sniff out explosives.

Beginning next week, other agencies will join the program. Besides TSA marshals, passengers will see state police, county police from Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk and other counties and local police from dozens of towns and villages, Soffin said.

New York City police will take part at railroad stations in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island. All patrols will be assigned in random patterns.

Officials said the new patrols could do random bag searches. They said the bulked-up force would be a permanent addition to the MTA security plan.

Sander said the federal government should spend more on rail security. The MTA said Washington spends $7.50 per airline passenger but just a cent and a half per mass transit passenger.

But Robert Jamison, deputy administrator of the TSA, said, “We are focused on our nation’s high-risk, high-consequence rail systems and delivering visible, unpredictable deterrents to these systems.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

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