September 9, 2009

Multi-force security deployed at Northeast stations

During Wednesday's morning and evening commutes, Amtrak Police, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel and law enforcement officers from more than 100 federal, state, local, rail and transit police agencies are being deployed at approximately 150 passenger rail stations throughout the Northeast Corridor region in an exercise of expanded counterterrorism and incident response capabilities.

The multi-force security surge across 13 states and Washington, D.C., is not in response to any particular threat or incident.  Rather, the deployment is part of Operation ALERTS (Allied Law Enforcement for Rail and Transit Security), a coordinated effort involving activities such as heightened station patrols, increased security presence onboard trains, explosives detection canine sweeps, and random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations.

"Operation ALERTS will enhance the readiness and communication capabilities of hundreds of police and security officials stationed in some of the heaviest rail passenger areas along the Northeast Corridor," said Amtrak Police Chief John O'Connor. "Our law enforcement partners in this deployment represent first responder agencies that will protect and defend the railways during any type of emergency or potential threat."

Over the past few years, terrorist attacks, attempts and plots around the globe have specifically targeted rail and mass transit. The security implications of this activity in the U.S., particularly in the region with the greatest concentration of public transportation users, have spurred the formation of a strong coalition of transportation and law enforcement agencies in the Northeast Corridor area.

Approximately 750,000 rail passengers ride Amtrak trains along the Northeast Corridor and other commuter rail systems integrated with the Corridor each day. 

Today's operation illustrates the growing cooperation among police departments
in states, cities, and towns throughout the northeast with their partners in Amtrak, commuter rail and mass transit systems, and TSA.  The deployed police officers will provide a visible security presence, on alert for and ready to investigate suspicious activities and items.  Bolstering these efforts are TSA's Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams, or VIPR Teams, operating at and around multiple stations in random, unannounced deployments.

These teams bring to bear specialized capabilities in monitoring for surveillance, detecting suspicious behaviors, and supporting random security inspections with mobile explosives detection equipment.  The main focus of VIPR operations is to deploy TSA resources to augment local security and law enforcement capabilities and foster deterrence through coordinated actions with local transportation entities and law enforcement. 

Amtrak and TSA plan to conduct similar joint operations regionally along the Northeast Corridor area in the future, as well as in other parts of our nation's rail system as part of an enhanced security strategy.  The deployments will be reviewed to identify lessons learned as part of a continuous improvement approach, including evaluation of requirements and tactics for effective response to any future threats or incidents within the railway system.  The operation also provides an important model for developing regional "templates" that will facilitate smaller-scale, but more frequent, joint rail security operations.

Operation ALERTS is under way Wednesday at rail stations in 13 states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia -- as well as Washington, D.C.

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