Rail Security Operation Prepares AMTRAK, TSA, Law Enforcement
Amtrak Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO), Amtrak Police, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel and officers from approximately 100 commuter rail, state and local police agencies mobilized late last month for the largest joint, simultaneous Northeast rail security operation of its kind, involving 150 railway stations between Fredericksburg, Va., and Essex Junction, Vt.
The morning rush-hour multi-force security deployment was not in response to any particular threat or incident, but rather a demonstration of an ongoing collaborative effort to expand counter-terrorism and incident response capabilities up and down the Northeast Corridor railway system. Approximately 750,000 rail passengers ride along the Northeast Corridor and other rail systems integrated with the Corridor each day.
Over the past few years, terrorist attacks, attempts and plots have specifically targeted rail and mass transit. The security implications of this activity in the United States, particularly in the region with the greatest concentration of users of public transportation, have spurred the formation of a strong coalition of transportation and law enforcement agencies in the Northeast Corridor area.
“We are one team, with one mission, and that is to protect rail and mass transit passengers, patrons and employees from harm, manmade or otherwise,” says Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor. “Without question, this operation provided the longest wall of security ever mobilized along the East Coast. We had hundreds of law enforcement officers across 13 states and Washington, D.C., report to duty as one force this morning, and that is our greatest strength.”
The operation enabled TSA and law enforcement officials to further familiarize themselves with their local train stations and rail environment, while establishing a highly visible police and security presence. Amtrak Mobile Team security personnel and TSA agents were deployed to designated locations along the Northeast Corridor area to conduct security activities, including the use of explosive trace detection devices during random passenger bag inspections.
Additionally, TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams or VIPR Teams, were mobilized at undisclosed locations to enhance security activities through the use of specialized detection technologies that identify anomalies considered suspicious. The main focus of VIPR operations is to deploy TSA resources to augment local security capabilities and facilitate deterrence through coordinated actions with local transportation entities and law enforcement.
“It is critical that we continue to expand and exercise our collective ability to respond to a terrorist threat or incident,” says John Sammon, TSA assistant administrator, Transportation Sector Network Management (TSNM). “[This] event offers the opportunity to demonstrate in dramatic fashion the force potential and security enhancement value of regional collaboration as TSA joins its professional colleagues throughout the Northeast to increase familiarization with the local stations and provide a highly visible security presence during rush hour.”
Amtrak and TSA said similar unannounced exercises will occur in the future along the Northeast Corridor area as well as in other parts of our nation’s rail system as part of an enhanced security strategy. This exercise will be reviewed and used as a method to evaluate personnel and resources required to respond to any future threats or incidents within the railway system.