Coming soon to the subway: Police officers with automatic rifles and submachine guns in your subway car. And bomb-sniffing dogs. And Kevlar-helmets. Oh, my.
Thanks to an influx of Homeland Security funds, New York City and the MTA are beefing up subway security. While I can’t complain about the money or the focus on the soft underbelly of our city’s security, I have to wonder if they’re going about it the right way. Al Baker, writing over the weekend in The New York Times, has more:
In the first counterterrorism strategy of its kind in the nation, roving teams of New York City police officers armed with automatic rifles and accompanied by bomb-sniffing dogs will patrol the city’s subway system daily, beginning next month, officials said on Friday.
Under a tactical plan called Operation Torch, the officers will board trains and patrol platforms, focusing on sites like Pennsylvania Station, Herald Square, Columbus Circle, Rockefeller Center and Times Square in Manhattan, and Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.
Officials said the operation would begin in March.
Financing for the program will be funneled to the Police Department and will come from a pool of up to $30 million taken from $153.2 million in new federal transit grants to the state.
New Yorkers riding the subway each day tend to forget that the subways are a very viable target and that they aren’t really secure. Various security projects are falling months behind schedule, and New York City’s transit infrastructure has long been stiffed by Homeland Security.
But armed officers patrolling trains cars? Is this designed to root out terrorists or keep rowdy riders in check? I would have to believe that this money is better spent securing tunnels, rail yards and other access points. We need strategic counterterrorism measures and not just for-show displays of arms. Hopefully, the remaining $120 million will be used in a more sensible matter.
Meanwhile, a few months ago, I noted that the subways were getting 1.5¢ per person of federal money for security while the airlines were raking in $7 per person. With this 56-percent increase, does that mean we’re now at a whopping 2.25¢ per person?
“New York remains at the top of the terrorist target list, and mass transit remains a concern because it has been targeted many times around the world,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. I feel safer already.