Could we be next?
Straphangers were on edge Monday after at least 38 people were killed in twin suicide bombings in the Moscow subway, with transit advocates again calling on the MTA to hold off on removing 600 station agents in May.
“I have kids who ride the subway too and I worry about them,” said Louis Rios, 51, a Brooklyn rider. “There could be more cops in the stations."
City police stepped up their presence in the system Monday, with caravans of cops in helmets and body armor dispatched to transit hubs. Police also extended their tours of duty in stations. No specific threats were made on the system yesterday, and the increased surveillance was “a precaution,” MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.
The NYPD has vastly expanded its ability to gain intelligence on terrorism suspects, but the city’s open subway system is still at risk, former police commissioner Howard Safir said.
“There are so many entrances, so many stations, so many people. It’s virtually impossible to guarantee that it won’t be vulnerable,” Safir said.
Nearly half of the 4,313 security cameras installed in the subway aren’t working, according to agency figures. Furthermore, the MTA is removing hundreds of station agents to save $21 million a year, a cut Safir criticized.
“More eyes and ears are always better,” he said.
Union officials have been meeting with state lawmakers to try and save the station agents, and Jesse Jackson will be in the city to support their efforts tomorrow, said John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union Local 100.
“Crime is at an all-time low and continues to decrease regardless of station staffing levels,” Soffin said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that the city will learn from the bombings, but did not provide more specifics about how it will impact police operations.
“We will continue to do everything possible to protect our transit system,” Bloomberg said.
Safir advised riders to be vigilant, but said that straphangers are more likely to be struck by lightning than be victims of terrorism.
“They can't search every single person who comes into the train station,” said Bea Woo, 34, a Manhattan rider.
(Jason Fink and the AP contributed to this story)
What other transit systems are doing to prevent an attack:
— Mumbai and Beijing officials scan subway riders with portable ion detectors to check for explosives. They also plan to have people walk through turnstiles equipped with the technology.
— In Israel, there are trained security personnel in high-traffic areas, such as bus stops, whose sole job is to look for signs of terrorism.
— San Francisco uses intelligent video that sets off an alarm if it detects an abandoned package or other suspicious behavior.
Source: Former Police Commissioner Howard Safir