Multi-Agency Sting Operation on Rail & Bus Successful
Monday, April 16, 2012 5:20 PM
CORRECTION: Bag checks did not occur. Please see note in comments section below. 4/24/12
In an unprecedented approach that involved four law enforcement agencies - including federal agents - METRO launched a national BusSafe pilot program last Friday that saturated its system and resulted in quality arrests, making transit safer for passengers.
The METRO Police Department, Houston Police Department, Harris County Precinct 7 Deputy Constables and 15 agents - part of so-called viper teams - from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) joined forces in a synchronized, counter-terrorism exercise that focused on bus stops and shelters and transit centers.
Law officials performed random bag checks, conducted sweeps with our K-9 drug and bomb-detecting dogs, and assigned both uniformed and plainclothes officers at transit centers and rail platforms to detect and prevent criminal activity. At a news conference last Friday, METRO Police Chief Victor Rodriguez called METRO's transit system one of the safest in the world. "We at METRO take our responsibility seriously. We have a safe and secure system," said Rodriguez. "This initiative is going to help us maintain and enhance the safety of our system. It takes this collaborative effort to synergize those expertise and skills for the benefit of all of Houston."
Doyle Raines, general manager at the Transportation Security Administration, said Rodriguez invited the TSA to bring its viper teams to join in this grassroots pilot program that grew from a peer advisory group of mass transit police chiefs and security directors that included METRO's Rodriguez.
Rodriguez pointed out three elements a safe transit system depends on: crime analysis, input from bus operators and citizens who ride the system.
Friday's BusSafe operation brought to the table agencies with specific skills - and the combination of those skills led to a productive exercise with quality arrests, said Rodriguez. The large-scale operation with multiple agencies in which no one was hurt demonstrated a rare level of cooperation and collaborative spirit by all the agencies involved.
Friday's operation occurred from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Eight felony arrests were made in one shift, compared to five last month.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas District 18), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, called this a new era for the TSA, and a new era for surface transportation security.
"We're looking to make sure that the lady I saw walking with a cane...knows that METRO cares as much about her as we do about building the light rail," said Jackson Lee at the news conference.