State police step up patrols to protect mass transit

Metro-North train (File)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)– Police here in Connecticut are stepping up their efforts because of the Paris attacks. The fear is that mass transit could be especially vulnerable. As a result if you ride the bus or train, you could see more police officers, both two-footed and four-footed.

The police dogs are cute, but more importantly, very effective at sniffing out explosives, and there’s a whole pack of them patrolling Connecticut’s mass transit.

“They will pick up an odor of an explosive from a great distance away and will alert the handler that there is an explosive material present,” explained Sgt. Steve Ostroski of the CT State Police’s Mass Transit Security Unit. That unit has been patrolling trains and buses full-time for years, but after the Paris attacks, they are now on high alert. They work with the MTA’s own police force as well as local police to be as visible as possible when the threat level is high.

“They focus on train station lobbies, we focus on platforms,” said Sgt. Ostroski. “These officers will actually get on board trains and ride the trains with the commuters.”

News8 asked morning commuters if the sight of officers with portable radiation detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs made them feel safer. “Absolutely, I would say so,” answered New Haven resident Okuf Re. “It’s a good thing that we have people on the train like the officers and the canines. It’s really good for safety out here.”

“It definitely makes me feel better,” said passenger Kathy Zimmerman. “I’m much more aware myself as to what’s going on.”

Awareness is important because these officers and their dogs can only be in so many places, so they need your help, too.

“What I would like to tell the public is, if they do see something that is unusual or out of place, it happens to us on a daily basis on the train,” described Sgt. Ostroski. “Somebody will approach us and say someone’s been in the bathroom for an extended period of time and there’s a bag outside the bathroom, or there’s a bag overhead and there’s nobody sitting anywhere near it.”

That amounts to a lengthy way of saying that old phrase ‘If you see something, say something.’ You, the passenger, are the first line of defense against terrorism.

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