‘Random’ searches of passengers on Metrolink

metrolink.jpgLA Times | Random searches of passengers and their belongings will begin next week on Metrolink commuter trains, the agency announced Thursday. Passengers got the news via a flier left on train seats. Sheriff’s deputies will be setting up random screening stations at random times. “Access to the station platform will be restricted; passengers must pass through the checkpoint to gain access to the station platform,” stated the flier.

The release goes on to say that some passengers will be selected from those lines and have their baggage searched. Anyone who refuses to be searched won’t be allowed to get on the train. Deputies are looking for “explosives” or other “dangerous items.”

Metrolink spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell told me this morning that the searches are not in response to any threats that have been made against trains.

“It’s more in response to what has become standard procedure at other commuter rail agencies across the country,” she said. “We were one of the few who wasn’t doing this, and we thought it would be a good idea to step up the security a little bit.”

She said police are primarily looking for explosives, but won’t turn a blind eye to other issues. “They are police officers,” Tyrrell added. “If you have a half a pound of hash in your book bag, they are going to arrest you. I would suggest if that’s the case you are one of the people that wants to walk away.”

One reader already e-mailed me with a salient question: If the searches are random and skip from station to station, then couldn’t a terrorist with a bomb simply get on the train at a station where random searches aren’t being done?

Tyrrell said that there will also be more security officers on trains. “We have 55 stations so we can’t be at every station” with a random search, she said. “What we’re trying to do is make it uncomfortable for someone to harm our passengers by having a greater level of security.”

As for the meaning of “dangerous items,” Tyrrell said that means guns or items that are obvious threats — large amounts of toxic materials, for example.

–Steve Hymon

A question for Bottleneckers: How do you feel about this? Is it a good idea? Leave a comment below.