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TSA to begin Metra commuter train patrols

(The following appeared on the Franklin Park Herald-Journal website on July 28, 2009.)

CHICAGO — Metra riders will soon see security teams from the federal Transportation Security Administration patrolling on commuter trains in the Chicago area, according to a news release.

The effort is not in response to a specific threat but rather is part of a "collective and proactive strategy" to provide a safe environment for Metra riders and the Chicago community. The teams work in partnership with local security and law enforcement officials to augment existing security resources, provide deterrent presence and detection capabilities, and introduce an element of unpredictability to disrupt potential terrorist planning activities.

The patrols, known as Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams, can consist of federal air marshals, transportation security officers, TSA-certified canine teams, surface transportation security inspectors and local/state law enforcement officers. The teams have been trained on rail safety by attending classes Metra holds for police and fire departments across the region. They will coordinate their efforts with the Metra Police Department and the police departments of Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Sante Fe.

Following the Madrid, Spain, train bombings of 2004, TSA stepped up efforts to enhance security on rail and mass-transit systems nationwide by creating and deploying VIPR teams. The teams previously patrolled Metra trains during large events, such as the July 3 fireworks and President Obama's election night rally in Grant Park. TSA then approached Metra to develop a program to augment Metra's existing security resources with regular VIPR patrols.

The VIPR program is part of the broad authority Congress gave to the Department of Homeland Security and TSA to protect all modes of transportation. The teams may be deployed to augment security of any mode of transportation at any location within the United States.

VIPR team members will be wearing identifiable duty uniforms on their patrols.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

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