N.Y. Subway Riders Resigned to Searches
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N.Y. Subway Riders Resigned to Searches

Associated Press | July 22, 2005
By SAM DOLNICK

COMMENT:
The searches that have begun on the New York subway are only the beginning. Cities all over the country are already falling in line and readying to install similar procedures on all mass transit lines. The purpose is two-fold: One, it is designed to keep up the level of fear, to keep the threat of terrorism ever present and on the minds of everyone of the millions of people who use mass transit each day. The second is to desensitize people to living in a Police State, to get them used to relinquishing their rights to the authority of the police and to get them accustomed to being under constant surveillance and scrutiny.

NEW YORK (AP) - Straphangers seemed resigned to random bag searches Friday as police across the region stepped up transit security in response to the new round of attacks in London.

"They should have done this long time ago, ever since 9/11," said stockbroker Ron Freeman, 25, who had his backpack searched Friday morning at a subway station in Brooklyn. "I don't mind if they're doing it for the right cause."

Random searches also are being conducted on buses, ferries and commuter railroads, and anyone who refuses a search won't be allowed to ride. Those caught carrying drugs or other contraband could be arrested.


(associated press photo)

Outside the Long Island Rail Road station in Brentwood, where the police presence had been beefed up, officers arrested a man Thursday evening they said had weapons in his car and a 1996 conviction for possessing a pipe bomb. He had been stopped because of complaints that he was illegally soliciting cab passengers, police said.

At the Lafayette Avenue subway station in Brooklyn, Greg Morgan, 30, was among those whose bag was searched Friday. "I don't know how effective it will be, but if it makes people feel more secure, it's OK."

Police stopped every fifth person with a bag entering the station. Each search took only a few seconds, and police appeared to be stopping people of all ages and races. In some cases, officers dumped the contents onto a table set up near the turnstiles, and in others they rifled through the bags.


(associated press photo)

Ten more officers and a bomb-sniffing dog were seen milling around the Brooklyn station.

"I thought it would never come to this," said William Reyes, 40, who was not searched.

"Surely, we do need it," Reyes added. "I don't like our privacy being invaded but given the circumstances around the globe, I understand it."


(associated press photo)

At a subway station in the Bronx, a police officer with a bullhorn informed commuters of the new policy, and a sign propped up on an easel read: "Backpacks, other containers subject to inspection."

It took police five minutes to go through Davon Campbell's bags. "It's important to search even when you have three bags," said Campbell, 24. "It doesn't bother me."

"Everyone's been very cooperative," said Officer Julio Seda, one of those doing the inspections. "Unfortunately, in the times we live in, it's a necessary evil."

New York's subways carry about 4.5 million passengers on the average weekday. The system, the largest in the country, has more than 450 stations, most of which have multiple entrances.

The inspection of bags and packages started on a small scale Thursday afternoon and was expanded during Friday morning's rush hour.

The New York Civil Liberties Union said the new measures violate basic rights and could invite racial or religious profiling.

"The plan is not workable and will not make New Yorkers more secure but will inconvenience them as police go about finding a needle in a haystack," NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman said.

But Rajesh John, 34, who is of Indian heritage, said he did not object to being selected for a bag search at the Woodlawn subway station in the Bronx.


(associated press photo)

"No not at all. We agree with this," said John, who was heading to his job at an accounting firm in Manhattan. "It's necessary because of what happened in England."

Police said they had considered instituting bag searches for three years. The emerging pattern of attacks on transit targets in London forced their hand, said Paul Browne, the New York Police Department's chief spokesman.


(associated press photo)

Officials declined to specify where the checks would be conducted or how long they would last. The NYPD had already doubled the number of officers who patrol the subway after the initial attack in London on July 7, at a cost of $2 million a week in overtime.

"We just live in a world where, sadly, these kinds of security measures are necessary," said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is known to ride the subways to work himself. "Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit. But we are trying to find that right balance."

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Associated Press writers David Caruso, Tom Hays, Sara Kugler and Elizabeth LeSure contributed to this report.

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On the Net:

Transit authority: http://www.mta.nyc.ny.us/nyct/


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