NY police to search backpacks on transit system

  • World
  • Friday, 22 Jul 2005

By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Commuters on New York subways will be subjected to random searches of backpacks and packages, New York police said on Thursday just hours after the second attack on London's transit system in two weeks. 

The additional security measure comes after four small coordinated explosions hit London's bus and underground train network, injuring one person, exactly 2 weeks after bombers killed more than 50 people in the British capital. 

Security on New York's transit system had already been stepped up since the July 7 bombings in London, when three subways and a bus were targeted by suicide bombers. 

Stressing there was no new threat against the city's transit system, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters that the searches would take place mostly at subway stations and possibly as people board city buses. 

"We will be instituting random searches of packages and backpacks as people enter the transit system," Kelly said. 

Most searches would take place before passengers passed through turnstiles, but there would also be searches on subway platforms and on trains, he said. 

A Quinnipiac University poll on Wednesday revealed that 72 percent of New Yorkers fear an attack like the July 7 bombings in London would occur in New York. 

New York has been on high alert for another attack since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks which felled the World Trade Center twin towers and killed nearly 3,000 people. 

The initiative is just the latest to protect New York's subway system, which averages 4.5 million riders on week days. Last week Kelly said police officers would approach commuters and tell them how to spot a potential suicide bomber. 

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who often rides the subway to work at City Hall, said the move was aimed at throwing potential terrorists off guard. 

"We just live in a world where sadly these kinds of security measures are necessary," he said. "Are they intrusive? Yes, a little bit, but we are trying to find that right balance between making sure that terrorists are off guard." 

Bloomberg said the searches would be restricted to the transit system and New Yorkers should not expect random searches while walking on city streets. 

"We don't have any plans to stop people walking down the street. We probably don't have the legal right to do it," Bloomberg said. 

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