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Police mobilize at Northeast rail stations

(The following story by Matt Wald appeared on the New York Times website on September 22.)

NEW YORK — Local police departments in 13 states and security agents from Amtrak and the federal Transportation Security Administration planned to carry out a show of force at 150 railroad stations from Virginia to Vermont on Tuesday morning. The drill will include random searches of passengers and their belongings, as well as other, unspecified security measures, the authorities announced.

“You’ll see police where you wouldn’t normally see them,'’ said Clifford Black, a spokesman for Amtrak. “It’s an exercise to familiarize law enforcement agencies with the railroad environment.'’ He said that in most cases the police “will just be there,'’ but that they would in some cases inspect luggage, briefcases and other belongings.

The surge will last through the morning rush hour, especially between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., but it may be repeated at some time in the future, officials said.

The drill is intended to be a “demonstration of ongoing collaborative capability to expand counter-terrorism and incident response along the Northeast Corridor railway system,'’ Amtrak and the T.S.A. said in a statement that was embargoed for release until this morning. The agencies said it was the largest exercise of its kind.

Participating agencies include the police departments from small jurisdictions, like Kingston, R.I., and Old Saybrook, Conn., Linden and Metuchen, N.J., Lower Merion, Pa., and Harpers Ferry, W.Va., as well as from big cities, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington.

Amtrak and the T.S.A. have previously conducted drills at single stations, in which they have run passengers through portals that sniff for explosives. At times, Amtrak has put police on trains coming in and out of Pennsylvania Station in New York to check passengers’ identities and, on occasion, inspect their luggage.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

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