- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

NEW YORK — In the latest in a series of security measures taken since the London bombing cases, the District’s Metropolitan Police Department has teamed with other East Coast forces to beef up protection of Amtrak trains traveling between New York and Washington.

The increased security, which began yesterday, also involves police officers from New Jersey, New York, Philadelphia, Maryland and other jurisdictions.

The state and local officers will help Amtrak’s own police force patrol train platforms and watch for suspicious activity and packages on trains and tracks along the entire route throughout the week, Paul Browne, spokesman for the New York Police Department (NYPD), said yesterday.

Police have no information about a specific threat against the most heavily traveled route in the Amtrak system.

However, in assessing security risks after mass transit was targeted in London, police officials were concerned that a route involving “two high-profile cities” might be a target, and that Amtrak Police did not have the manpower to properly protect it, Mr. Browne said.

The police officials from the various departments and agencies gathered at NYPD headquarters last week to coordinate the effort, which will include use of bomb-sniffing dogs and police helicopters.

“It seemed to be a precaution that needed to be taken,” Mr. Browne said, adding that the departments hope to cover the cost with federal funding.

Mr. Browne said police agreed their combined effort needed “to appear to be random and unpredictable in order to defeat the kind of reconnaissance that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are known to conduct.”

Amtrak Police, with about 350 officers nationwide, has welcomed the assistance from the 37,000-officer NYPD, the nation’s largest force, and other departments.

“It’s really important that we have it,” Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said.

The NYPD first began conducting sweeps of Amtrak trains leaving Penn Station bound for Washington on July 14 after suicide bombers struck in London.

In the District, the Metro Transit Police Department has instructed employees to be vigilant along the rail corridors shared with Amtrak as well as Metro’s own tunnels, Officer Linda Foxwell said.

“We don’t have jurisdiction in the Amtrak stations,” Officer Foxwell said. “But we certainly have done a lot to educate our riders about what they should look for, what they should report.

“This is certainly information that they can carry over to their commuter rail” as well as Amtrak, she said.

Metro police officials are still considering a draft plan that could lead to random bag searches, Officer Foxwell said.

Other participating agencies include the Amtrak Police Department; Baltimore Police Department; Delaware State Police; Delaware Office of Homeland Security; Maryland State Police; Philadelphia Police Department; New Jersey Office of Counterterrorism; New Jersey State Police and New Jersey Transit Police.

• Associated Press writer Brett Zongker in the District contributed to this report.

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