Orange Alert: Nationwide Railroads Step Up Security

WASHINGTON – Nationwide, railroads stepped up security following the announcement of an increase to the country’s terror threat level.

“We are taking precautionary measures to assure our customers that we are doing everything that we can to make sure they can pass through our system without incident. Our customers are likely to see special response teams of officers carrying additional weaponry with a canine accompanying them,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson. “We also are asking our customers to be an extension of our eyes and ears, and let us know if they see anything unusual.”

Since Dec. 21, when the threat alert level was increased to Orange Alert, Transit police officers have been wearing their bright fluorescent visibility vests so that customers who notice anything unusual can quickly spot and alert a police officer. More officers will be on patrol starting today.

“Rest assured, the presence of these special response teams and explosive detection canine teams does not indicate any specific, impending danger. These precautionary measures are intended to reassure our customers and add another level of security prevention,” she said.

In Atlanta, MARTA Police Chief Gene Wilson put his officers on 10-hour a day shifts and cancelled all leaves until further notice.

“It’s no secret that transit is always a major target of terrorist activity,” said Nathaniel P. Ford, MARTA General Manager/CEO. “While we recognize the inconvenience this increased security might impose on our customers, their safety and security is our first priority.”

Amtrak, the nation’s passenger rail system, says its officers are spot-checking passenger’s bags for anything suspicious.

The railroad is “increasing police patrols in its stations and other facilities," spokesman Cliff Black told The Philadelphia Daily News. Police will be “randomly riding and inspecting trains and K-9 units will be randomly sniffing checked baggage and, sometimes, just wandering through passenger waiting rooms.”

Likewise, freight railroads are keeping a more vigilant eye on what moves along their tracks.

“We’re real cautious about what comes down our line,” Pete Lawrenson, chief of security for Montana Rail Link told The (Helena, Mont.) Independent Record. “We have contracted security working our yards and we’re going to be much more aggressive with trespassers.”

Originally published in the January 2002 edition of The Cross-Tie.