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MTA canine teams now patrols for terrorism

(The following story by Jennifer Maloney appeared on the Newsday website on June 14.)

NEW YORK — Hudson leaned forward from the back seat, peering through the windshield at a man in an orange vest.

"It's OK," Doug Joseph, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority police officer, told the German shepherd. "He's good."

Joseph waved to the orange-vested track worker and drove away from the train station, scanning the tracks while Hudson looked out the window.

Hudson is an MTA police dog, and her beat is the Long Island Rail Road. She can climb a ladder, jump a 6-foot fence and sniff out explosives. She can also stand on a platform without flinching as a screaming train whooshes past. And now she's part of the stepped-up counterterrorism efforts of the nation's busiest commuter rail network.

In March, the MTA announced the Directed Patrol Strategy, a new security initiative in which local, state and federal law enforcement agencies patrol trains and stations.

As part of that effort, MTA police officers talked with customers at the Mineola railroad station Wednesday morning while Joseph, 36, and Hudson, who just turned 7, walked up and down the platform. She sniffed two abandoned umbrellas leaning on a bench and determined that they were safe. Joseph tossed her a tennis ball -- her reward -- and delivered the umbrellas to the lost and found.

"Almost everything you find out on the system is non-hazardous," said Joseph, who, with Hudson, responds to suspicious packages and vehicles and other emergencies. "You get more trained eyes on the system, you're going to deter crime. It'll also help deter, we hope, the terrorist threat."

Working together for the past 4 1/2 years, the team has earned a box full of commendations, including an MTA police Medal of Merit for arresting a suspect in an armed robbery.

"That's all her stuff," Joseph said, referring to the plaques and certificates. "I can't smell explosives. I can't find people in the dark or the woods."

The MTA has 50 canine teams consisting of a handler and a dog. Each team goes through an intensive six-month training course and must earn annual certification.

Hudson once tracked down a burglary suspect for an hour, zigzagging through the woods on a bitter cold night in Ronkonkoma. Another time, she found the knife used in the stabbing of a bus driver at the Roosevelt Field Mall.

She found it in the mall's parking lot 90 minutes after the crime, in a 4-inch puddle.

Hudson and Joseph are one of 50 MTA police K-9 teams working throughout MTA territory.

Yesterday, they responded to a report of an unruly passenger on board a train. With other MTA police, they met the train at the New Hyde Park station. It turned out to be a misunderstanding between the conductor and the passenger, who wanted to use a bathroom.

For that job, Hudson stayed in the Chevrolet Tahoe. But if Joseph had encountered trouble, he could have opened the SUV's door remotely. And Hudson would have come running.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

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