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Heightened Amtrak security debuts in N.Y.

(The following story by Robert Gavin appeared on the Albany Times Union website on September 6.)

RENSSELAER, N.Y. — Nearly six years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, security will be heightened at the Rensselaer train station.

Amtrak passengers will face random luggage screenings, among other changes, under a new anti-terrorism initiative announced at the station today.

Law enforcement officials said their heightened measures will not be as far-reaching as those at airports but could still help thwart any potential wrong-doing. Federal officials plan to use explosive-detecting devices and sniffing dogs and have a show of force at the rail station.

Other changes could be added, they said.

`'We think this is a significant step,'' said Grant C. Jaquith, chief of the Criminal Division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Albany.

He was joined by, among others, Rensselaer Police Chief Rick Fusco and representatives of the FBI, Rensselaer County Sheriff's Office, U.S Customs and Border Protection and Amtrak Police.

None provided details of the initiative like cost or start-up date. Jaquith would only say it will begin soon. He said the initiative is the culmination of many efforts but did not say what, if anything, prompted the heightened screening. He did note the March 11, 2004 terrorist bombing of the train network in Madrid, Spain, which claimed nearly 200 lives.

Jaquith was not expecting any delays at the station, where riders have at times complained of lengthy trips between Albany and New York City. Some 761,000 passengers use the Rensselaer station annually.

Amtrak officials could not immediately be reached.

Most passengers asked about the changes expressed support.

``It doesn't bother me at all,'' said Justin Bahrami, of New York City, who had just rode the train from Manhattan.

``This is a long time coming,'' said Joanna Blaisdell of Albany, who was waiting to board a train to the city, en route to Long Island, and was fine with the changes. ``I'm just surprised it's taken this long, quite frankly.''

Not everyone was so sure the increased security will be worth it.

`'I don't feel any safer,'' said Anthony Anderson of Albany, as he waited in the lobby of the rail station. ``If someone wants to bomb the train, they're going to do it.''

Friday, September 7, 2007

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