The Transit Services Bureau of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department has increased the number of random baggage and package screenings conducted at various Metro Rail checkpoints. The increase is due to anti-terrorism training of additional law enforcement personnel provided by the bureau’s Special Operations Threat Interdiction Unit.
“The goal is to have concerned law enforcement personnel trained in all aspects of counter-terrorism so that, in the event of a serious threat, we have a full cadre of specifically trained personnel able to expand the operation to cover the entire system at a moment’s notice,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Commander Pat Jordan.
The counterterrorism training of additional law enforcement personnel is funded by a $600,000 Department of Homeland Security Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant awarded to the LASD Transit Services Bureau.
Metro contracts with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to patrol all rail stations including Union Station, its buses and trains and to protect passengers.
The Threat Interdiction Unit (TIU) began conducting random screenings nearly three years ago.
Since then, the 12-person counterterrorism team, with the assistance of LASD Explosive Detection Canine Teams, has been screening items on the Metro Rail system, conducting as many as six, two-hour operations a day.
A typical Mobile Search and Screening Team (MSST) operation involves deputies setting up a checkpoint at a train station which includes a large sign announcing to patrons that once they enter the station, they are subject to baggage searches by Sheriff’s personnel.
The screenings do not include body pat downs, scanners or searches. During the screenings, deputies also check for fare evaders and are able to detect other crime, such as possession of illegal narcotics or weapons.
“The concept is that through this unpredictable, randomized deterrent, we’re going to deter terrorism,” said Jordan. The teams deploy special screening devices and canine units to detect possible explosives.
Currently, the funding for the TIU operation is included in Metro’s contract with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to provide law enforcement services through June 30, 2012. The operation was funded for the first two and a half years by Federal grants.
“All passengers are reminded to take action if you notice suspicious activity or items,” said Jordan. “If you see something, say something,” he said. Call the Sheriff’s hotline at 888-950-SAFE.