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Security checks set Friday at Maryland commuter train stations

(The following story by Michael Dresser appeared on the Baltimore Sun website on October 27, 2009.)

BALTIMORE, Md. — The Maryland Transit Administration Police will launch a program of random security checks at MARC commuter train stations Friday, using bomb-sniffing dogs to screen passengers' luggage and packages to detect explosives.

The MTA warned riders that delays could occur and urged passengers to allow extra time to board trains on the Penn, Camden and Brunswick lines.

Lt. Col. John E. Gavrilis, chief of the MTA police, said the tighter security is not a response to a specific threat but part of a general effort to "target-harden" Maryland transit facilities. He said the effort will begin at MARC stations but would eventually extend to the Baltimore Metro and light rail stations.

Gavrilis said the MTA has been working with the federal Transportation Security Administration to design the program. He said the agency recently received a federal grant to hire personnel and to purchase equipment needed for the screenings.

According to the MTA, the screenings could involve luggage, briefcases, backpacks, packages or other carry-on items. Police will rotate the random screenings among the various stations in the MARC system.

Gavrilis said his police force has been working with the TSA for several years to increase security at Maryland transit facilities.

"This is an opportunity to take it up one more notch," he said.

The MTA police have six dogs that have been trained by the TSA to guard against terrorist attacks. Gavrilis said the animals are not used to detect drugs.

"These are bomb dogs," he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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