Northeast States Join In Commuter Security Effort

 

Opening shots of the war with Iraq brought governors of three states together in an unusual effort to protect commuters in the New York City area from terrorist attacks.

Govs. George E. Pataki (R) of New York, James E. McGreevey (D) of New Jersey and John G. Rowland (R) of Connecticut announced a tri-state effort that will add more than 700 state police and National Guard troops to the New York area commuter rails, including the NJ Transit and the Port Authority Trans-Hudson lines.

Under the arrangement, police officers from Connecticut and New Jersey will be allowed to make arrests in New York.

The compact is the latest example of renewed cooperation among the states since Sept. 11 to prevent terrorism.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the terror alert to "orange," the second highest of five levels. States across the country have responded by increasing security at airports, state buildings, chemical plants, nuclear facilities, symbolic sites and national monuments. They also have beefed up police presence along the U.S. border and at ports and have added more inspections of vehicles at border crossing and access roads.

"This current situation has required all governors to work together," Rowland said in a statement.

Rowland joined Pataki and McGreevey in announcing the effort at a news conference at New York'sGrand Central Terminal.

As part of the tri-state pact, uniformed and plainclothes state police from Connecticut and New Jersey will ride trains entering New York. New Jersey Transit already has two bomb-sniffing dog units to detect explosive devices and will add another two by late May.

Karen Cobuluis of the National Emergency Management Association said few states have commuter rails that cross state lines, so the New York-area arrangement is atypical.

However she said other forms of state cooperation are commonplace. Every state except Hawaii and California, for example, has joined the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, an affiliate of the Council of State Governments that helps states avoid bureaucratic wrangling when helicopters, firefighters or trucks are needed in emergencies.

The "orange" alert level has resulted in a wide range of activity in states. In New York, for example, Pataki activated "Operation NYShield," the state's own high alert plan that includes adding armored vehicles at major bridge and tunnel crossings and more state police at the northern border.

Other noteworthy state actions as the war began:

  • In Colorado, Gov. Bill Owens (R) activated a round-the-clock command center to respond to any retaliatory attack at home. 
  • Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) announced heightened security at the statehouse and state office buildings. 
  • In Arizona, Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) sent National Guard troops to boost security at the Palo Verde Nuclear Power Generating Station near Phoenix. 
  • And in Hawaii, Gov. Linda Lingle (R) raised the state's alert status to yellow, the highest it has been since the year-old national terror alert system was implemented. The rest of the United States is at Orange level. 
 
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