NYPD Pledges No Racial Profiling As Anti-Terror Searches Begin On Mass Transit
By: NY1 News
NY1: NYPD Pledges No Racial Profiling As Anti-Terror Searches Begin On Mass Transit
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A day after a second terror attack struck the London transportation system, the NYPD has begun random searches of New York City commuters throughout the city's mass transit system.
Meanwhile, news has come from London that one of the suspects being sought in connection with Thursday's attacks was caught by a surveillance camera wearing a "New York" shirt near the scene of one of the bombings.
Although authorities believe at least some of the London bombers could be Muslim supporters of the al Qaeda terror network, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly says the NYPD's anti-terror measures will not target any particular ethnic group.
"Every certain number of people will be checked," Kelly said Thursday, describing the NYPD's search methodology. "There will certainly be no racial profiling allowed."
Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg say the new searches can make the city's subway system more secure without violating civil rights.
"I hope that we've established the right balance here, providing the kind of security we need while not being too intrusive and not violating their rights,” said Bloomberg. “And the ways we've done this is you can walk away if you don't want your bag searched, you just can't get on the subway. So we do it outside the turnstile and there's no profiling. We've got a system of let's say, every 20th person, so that you can't complain that it is discriminatory in the sense of somebody profiling you."
“It gives potential terrorists something to think about it,” said Kelly. “It's not the total solution, we know that, but it's an additional step, it's another layer of security. We're doing a lot of other things here in the city, and it's just something additional."
Nevertheless, representatives of the New York Civil Liberties Union say they're concerned.
Even if random, the searches "can invite the possibility of racial, ethnic or religious profiling," said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. "The plan is not workable and will not make New Yorkers more secure, but will inconvenience them."
The random searches of straphangers carrying bags or backpacks began Thursday in selected parts of the subway system, as well as on buses, ferries, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North Rail Road. Anyone who refuses a search won't be allowed on.
The city's subway system is the largest in the country with millions of passengers and more than 450 stations.
Some straphangers at the Lafayette subway station in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, had mixed feelings about the new security measures.
“I’m a little uncomfortable with it. I just don't want it to be an issue where people are being targeted for unsuspicious reasons — because of what they look like or possibly think they may be carrying,” said one commuter. “But if it makes people feel safer then I guess it is worth it. No, [I don’t think it will be effective].”
“I believe they're trying to provide some type of level of security where [it’s] heightened because of the London bombings, and it’s rightfully so,” said another. “I think that the citizens should just grin and bare it.”
“I don't like the intrusion of the personal liberty, but I understand why they need to do it,” added a third subway rider. “I just hope there is no profiling going on.”
Following the MTA’s lead, the Port Authority will search its passengers’ bags beginning Monday. Passengers on PATH trains, Air Trains and buses will be subject to searches by Port Authority police.
The PA says those passengers who refuse the searches will not be allowed on trains or buses.
Searches will be conducted at the fare booths on PATH and Air Trains, and at the passenger gates of the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Midtown Manhattan.
Transit systems across the country will also remain on high alert following Thursday's terror scare in London. Published reported cited senior counter-terror officials as saying Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff was considering lowering the alert level from orange to yellow, but has changed his mind.
The alert level for mass transit systems were upgraded to orange after the deadly London bombings on July 7th. New York City has been on orange or high alert since the color-coded system was created.
Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer says the city needs more money from Washington D.C. to defend the mass transit system. New York's senior senator spoke to reporters in Grand Central Station Friday.
Schumer says the recent attacks in London and the March 2004 attacks in Madrid show terrorists are intent on attacking mass transportation. Schumer congratulated the NYPD for taking extraordinary measures to protect New Yorkers, but he says politicians in Washington have to provide more money for subway and rail security.
“For every air passenger we spent $7 a year for security. For every mass transit passenger we spend a penny. The federal government can do a whole lot better than that,” said the senator.
Schumer is sponsoring an amendment to the homeland security spending bill which would provide $1.-6 billion for mass transit security. The bill failed to get the necessary 60 votes last week, but the senator says he will push for another vote.
All of the heightened security measures were put in place following four small blasts that forced the evacuation of three London subway stations and a double-decker bus early Thursday afternoon, London time, but only one person was reported injured. The attacks came two weeks after the deadly London bombing of July 7.
In a dramatic development in the investigation, London police Friday afternoon released the pictures of four men thought to be responsible for Thursday's bombings. Images of the four men were captured by closed-circuit television cameras at or near each of the four crime scenes.
The vivid pictures show one of the men walking briskly though the subway, wearing a dark sweatshirt with the words "New York" in light letters on the front. Investigators say they found the sweatshirt discarded.
Another image clearly shows a man on a bus wearing a white cap and a gray T-shirt with images of what appear to be palm trees.
A London investigator says four bombs "partially detonated" at each of the sites, and that they were made from "homemade explosives" carried in backpacks.
Authorities say it's too early to tell if Thursday's attacks were carried out by the same people responsible for the July 7th bombings.