TSA Joins NYPD in Subway Baggage Screening
April 22, 2010
By: Jill Colvin
Strangers on their way to and from work Wednesday were surprised to see Transportation Security Administration officials, who usually screen luggage in airports, checking bags at local subway stations.
The TSA launched a pilot partnership with the NYPD Wednesday morning to enhance security on city trains, a spokeswoman for the TSA said. About a dozen stations are covered daily, according to the NYPD.
“While there is no specific threat to mass transit in the United States at this time, TSA and NYPD continuously work together to strengthen overall security efforts and keep the American people safe,” the Administration said in a statement.
At the 40th Street and 8th Avenue entrance to the Port Authority 42nd Street station, TSA staffers began randomly searching passengers at 4 p.m. The searches were expected to last through the evening rush.
Screeners said that passengers are generally happy to comply.
“For the most part, people co-operate fully,” said NYPD Lt. Francis O’Keeffe, who oversaw the operation.
Latifa Ziyad, who is visiting from Boston her three daughters, said she is fine with the searches if they make people safer.
“As long as I’m not getting singled out because I look a certain way, it’s okay,” she said.
Others were willing but eager to get on with their days.
“It’s alright, I’ve got thing to hide,” said accountant Ramone Esmilla, 50, as officers tested his knapsack, which was filled with gym clothes. “But I just want to get out of here and pick up my kid.”
The Administration has nicknamed the teams, which randomly screen passengers’ bags using chemical swabs, “VIPR”s (pronounced viper): Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response.
Subway baggage checks have been routinely conducted by the NYPD since 2005 following the London subway bombings.
TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis would not say how long the Administration expects the program to last, except that mass transit riders should anticipate a TSA presence underground “for the foreseeable future.”