DC Metro 'Target-Rich' for Terrorists, Says Police Chief

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The subway system in the nation's capital remains a terrorist target even though many security improvements have been made over the last year, the head of security for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) told reporters Friday.

"We recognize every day that mass transportation is an attractive site for terrorist activity," District of Columbia Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson told Cybercast News Service during an online chat.

That is why "we continue to expand previously created programs, look for unique partnerships with local and federal partners as well as new technologies and patrol deployments, and increase and enhance our security," she said.

WMATA is the second largest rail transit system in the United States, covering over 106 miles of track and 86 stations in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

"Transit is a target-rich environment as we have seen in the past in places like London, Madrid and Israel," said Hanson.

In direct response to the July 2, 2005, suicide bomber attacks which killed 52 people and injured more than 800 others in London, WMATA increased station, tunnel and train inspections, installed explosive-containment trash cans and increased the presence of uniformed and plainclothes officers.

But Hanson said more steps are needed. "We are always looking for ways to enhance security and provide different layers of security throughout our system.

"We do some new initiatives that are designed to be highly visible (and we tell the public about it) and we have other initiatives that are designed to be more behind-the-scenes that are not as visible or recognizable," she said.

The radios used by Metro police officers now function in all subway stations and Hanson said radiological pagers are carried by officers and supervisors who are trained to handle situations involving the release of radiation.

Hanson added that the organization has launched a new program to inspect underwater tunnels. On Friday, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security announced that they had foiled a terrorist plot that allegedly would have involved bombing a transportation tunnel under the Hudson River between New York City and New Jersey in an attempt to flood Lower Manhattan.

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