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Security is ramped up on Amtrak, MetroLink

(The following story by Ken Leiser appeared on the St. Louise Post-Dispatch website on July 4, 2010.)

ST. LOUIS — Don't be too alarmed to see stepped-up security on MetroLink or Amtrak trains in St. Louis.

During the past week or so, Metro and Amtrak officials have alerted their passengers that they may encounter canine teams and uniformed law enforcement officers.

"This is not in response to any sort of threat or risk," Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said last weekend. "This is something we are doing around the country more and more. I think our customers are going to see this more and more often as they travel around our system."

The surge team was in St. Louis for an undisclosed number of days, Magliari said last Sunday. The dogs are brought in to detect explosives on arriving and departing Amtrak trains.

This stepped-up security corresponds with the holiday weekend — a time when more people are out and about. Metro is expecting big crowds this weekend and will have extra trains for people attending Fair St. Louis.

This weekend, Metro — along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and local police agencies — will patrol the transit system. The operation goes by a clunky name: Visible Intermodal Protection and Response. And this weekend isn't the first time it has been in effect. The teams are on the system a few times a year.

"Metro, local and federal law enforcement agencies participate in an ongoing cooperative effort to make sure that law enforcement and first responders are prepared to protect transit commuters," said Metro Chief Willie McCuller.

Metro officials wanted people to know the teams are out this weekend.

Again, there is no specific threat targeting passenger rail or public transportation, officials from the two agencies said. But there is no denying that crowded trains and buses have been targeted by terrorists in the United States and abroad.

Unlike airports, people boarding passenger trains and light-rail vehicles are not forced to pass through a magnetometer or face explosive-detection measures.

"None of the surface-transportation modes have it," Magliari said. "This is an open system. It always has been. Unlike aviation, which tends to work from staffed location to staffed location, not every location is staffed. Not every bus stop is staffed. Not every train stop is staffed."

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

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