WASHINGTON – Bomb sniffing dogs and police officers with automatic rifles greeted Metro riders at some stops Thursday as the city stepped up terror alerts after the transit attacks in London.
Metro Transit Police added patrols immediately after news from London reported multiple attacks on the underground rail system there,said Sgt. Pete Sepulveda of the Metro Transit Police Special Response Team. Police conducted sweeps of the capital's buses and trains.
“I knew it was going to be a long day for us,” Sepulveda said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security also raised national security levels to orange for mass transportation,including bus and rail systems. No imminent threat existed,said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a midday press statement.
“However,we know the tactics and methods of terrorists,as demonstrated by the horrific rail bombings in Madrid last year,” Chertoff said.
Most train sweeps occurred at Metro transfer stations such as L'Enfant Plaza and Metro Center,and bus sweeps took place in garages,said Cathy Asato,Metro spokeswoman.
Police search dog Starsky,a German shepherd,sniffed cars on several Metro Center trains while Metro Transit Police Officer Paul Ludwig talked with commuters and looked for potential threats.
“He thinks there are some toys out here and we're just playing hide and seek with him,” Ludwig said. “Usually we just try to keep him moving.”
Police dog units scoured trash bins,checked locked doors and watched for abandoned packages,Sepulveda said.
While dogs and their officers searched areas,passenger traffic continued as usual,with thousands of people still riding Metro trains. An average of 667,000 passengers ride the Metro rail system daily,Asato said.
In-station announcements urged travelers to alert police officers if they saw anything unusual.
“We are also asking our customers to be an extension of our eyes and ears,” said Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson in a statement.
Officers explained the added security measures to concerned riders and attempted to calm fears,Sepulveda said.
“Usually the patrons see us,” Sepulveda said. “They come up to us.”
Added security did not stop some tourists from riding. Karl Boppel,52,a Cincinnati real estate agent,said he rode the Metro to the Capitol with his family without too many worries.
“We had to inquire to see whether or not anything would be open,” Boppel said.
Local rider Brooke Matheson,28,depended on Metro to get her to a morning job interview.
“I was more concerned that there would be delays,but I decided to brave it,” she said.
There were some delays,Sepulveda said,but most of the searches occurred at transfer points where extra time is allowed for passengers changing trains.
Security sweeps will continue for an undisclosed amount of time,Sepulveda said.