- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2005

Metro riders say they are willing to submit to random bag searches on trains and buses — a sacrifice of privacy for security against terrorism.

Metro officials were in New York yesterday to study random searches of passengers’ bags on that city’s trains. New York police last week began the searches in response to terrorist bombings in London this month.

Metro officials are considering authorizing such searches on subway trains and buses, said Steven Taubenkibel, a spokesman for the transit agency.

Riders said this week that searches in Metro stations not only would be welcome, but also were overdue.

“I’m all in favor of it,” said Tom Rekus, 51, of Odenton, Md., a retired 25-year FBI agent. “Now is it guaranteed to prevent an attack? We know that’s not going to happen. However, anything that is a deterrent to individuals is a good thing. I’m willing to give up a little personal freedom in exchange for security.”

Marqueeta Banks, a mass communications student at the University of the District of Columbia, agreed, noting that a train she was riding Tuesday was evacuated because of a security breach.

“It’s a good idea,” the 19-year-old said. “It’s not like they’re going to be looking through your papers or anything. You shouldn’t get on the train with weapons anyway.”

Five trains were removed from service Tuesday after riders reported seeing suspicious packages or people, Mr. Taubenkibel said.

Between July 7 and Monday, Metro received 131 reports of suspicious packages or people, compared with 36 during the same time last year, the spokesman said.

Transit police have deployed officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs at subway stations.

The stations’ public restrooms are temporarily closed as a precaution since the London bombings.

Mr. Taubenkibel said the New York trip was a “fact-finding mission.”

“If we decide to implement such a program, we’ll have the benefit of seeing how it’s worked in New York,” he said. “But again, no decision has been made, and it’s still very early in the process.”

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said he supports searching passengers’ bags.

“You can criticize it and say, ‘Well, it’s misplaced and it’s really not going to address the problem that needs to be solved,’ ” Mr. Williams said. But “you’ve got a moving target that is a very, very challenging target and you have got to use every tool at your disposal.”

He said his staff is looking at making some “adjustments” in penalties for false alarms.

New York police said there are no plans to stop the searches, which have been criticized by civil rights groups concerned about races or religions being profiled.

Meanwhile, Metro will provide quarterly security training for more than 1,100 station managers, train operators and janitors, Mr. Taubenkibel said. The program, which will begin next month, was first reported Wednesday by The Washington Post.

Mr. Taubenkibel said he did not know who would be in charge of conducting searches on trains or buses.

Robert Redding Jr. contributed to this report.

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