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Spain bombings prompt more patrols on Metro-North

(The following story by Gabrielle Birkner appeared on the Stamford Advocate website on March 18.)

STAMFORD, Conn. -- In the wake of last week's bomb attacks that killed more than 200 people on Madrid commuter trains, a platoon of state troopers has been assigned to patrol Metro-North New Haven Line trains.

It marks the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, that Connecticut troopers have been put on Metro-North trains without the national terror alert being raised to orange, indicating the high risk of a terrorist attack, said Sgt. Paul Vance, spokesman for Connecticut State Police.

"We put this into effect as a result of the tragedy that occurred in Spain," Vance said. "Their role is to provide another layer of public safety. We want people to feel secure and confident in public transportation as they move throughout the state. The state troopers provide a very adequate supplement to the (Metropolitan Transit Authority) police already patrolling the trains."

The state troopers will ride peak and nonpeak trains traveling north- and southbound, he said.

"Assignments have been made according to the volume of people riding the trains," said Vance, who would not release the number of Connecticut troopers dispatched to guard the trains.

"We've been on a heightened state of alert after the bombing in Madrid," said Tom Kelly, spokesman for the MTA police. Kelly said commuters will see more uniformed law enforcement officials, including National Guardsmen in Grand Central Terminal.

New York state also put troopers on Metro-North Railroad and Long Island Rail Road in response to the Spain bombings, Kelly said.

The state troopers' presence can act as a deterrent to potential terrorists and ease the anxiety of commuters wary of bomb attacks, said W. Robert Carnes, a Stamford-based security analyst. "If law enforcement properly surveys the trains, suspicious packages may be found more readily than if only the conductors were looking," Carnes said.

Clem Garcia, 34, of Stamford, who took the train yesterday to New York City for a meeting, agreed.

"To be honest, anyone can leave a package on the train -- it's an ongoing worry -- so we just all have to be vigilant," Garcia said.

Still, he said, he felt safer knowing law enforcement officials are riding the trains.

But Metro-North's decision to put state troopers aboard New Haven Line cars will not make for safer trains, said Paul Kreuch, 66, of Darien, who works as a consultant in Manhattan.

"I think it's a nice gesture, but it's not going to do anything," he said. "It's like getting hit by lightning. If we get hit, so will (the state troopers). But honestly, I don't think we're going to get hit."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

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