Holiday getaway season is at its peak. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), this is the busiest 48-hour travel-period of the season. AAA expects a record 107 million Americans to be on the move between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1, with more than 97 million on the roads, and nearly 6.5 million flying.
In New York, that means increased security teams of bomb-sniffing dogs, heavily armed officers and enhanced surveillance at train stations and airports. Radiation detectors are scanning vehicles coming over bridges.
“This is the right thing to do,” said Joseph Lhota, chairman of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Our experience we have had in the last week or two, and what we have seen throughout the world, this is the right time to do this.”
In the wake of December’s subway bombing, Sen. Chuck Schumer is calling for new scanners to be deployed in New York subways. They scan people as they enter, looking for hidden explosives like suicide vests. Last week, transit system officials in Los Angeles started evaluating the scanners.
“As that bar turns from green to red we know we’ve identified an individual that may need a little closer scrutiny,” said Alex Wiggins, the head of security for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“If it detects something that’s very dense, like what would be in a suicide vest or explosive vest, it will then alarm, and then it will give our officers an indication that here’s something we need to take a very close look at,” he said.
The 6.4 million people expected to fly in the next two weeks will see other airport security changes, including new automated screening equipment that was recently rolled out in Boston. The goal is to speed up the screening process, and it’s already in place in a few other large airports.
Passengers will also be asked to remove any devices larger than a cell phone from their carry-ons.
“That declutters the image that the X-ray operator looks at,” said David Pekoske, administrator for the Transportation Security Administration. “Our own testing shows that new procedure increases security significantly.”
Law enforcement said there’s no specific intelligence pointing to a pending threat during the holiday season. But since the last two attacks in New York City involved people inspired by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), expect to hear police preaching, “If you see something, say something.”
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