NYC: Subway tunnel arrests not linked to terror

AP News
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Posted: May 09, 2011 5:31 PM
NYC: Subway tunnel arrests not linked to terror

Two incidents of train tunnel trespassing over the weekend have nothing to do with terrorism, but with such an immense network of subway and commuter rail tunnels running beneath the city's streets and waterways, it's impossible to completely protect the system from intruders, the city's police commissioner said Monday.

"It's possible for people to get into the system," Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters following a police memorial ceremony. "We have 5 million people a day that travel on the system, so things of an untoward nature can happen. There are no guarantees, but we're doing more than any other city anywhere to protect ourselves."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg added that investigators believe there are no serious or concrete threats to the city, even amid the heightened concern following the killing of Osama bin Laden, whose terrorist organization pulled off the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"We're doing everything that we can, and let us pray nothing happens," the mayor said. "But the bottom line is I feel safe and you should feel safe going down there. ... We are as prepared as we could possibly be."

Kelly said the city has more than 2,000 police officers assigned to the transit bureau and more than 1,000 involved in counter-terrorism efforts. Subway tunnels are checked each day by a team, and the teams have access to bomb-sniffing dogs and heavy weaponry, he said.

Bloomberg said there's "a lot of police protection and presence, a lot of which you do not see."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the nation's largest mass transit system, oversees 2,047 miles of track. That doesn't include the track occupied by PATH, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains.

Police say four men were arrested on criminal trespass charges early Sunday morning after a Harlem resident saw them sneaking into Manhattan's Second Avenue subway tunnel, which is under construction. Authorities say the men said they were part of an urban explorers group and were carrying fireworks with them to create light for taking photographs. Three of the men were arraigned Monday.

In a second incident early Sunday, a man was arrested on charges including criminal trespass after being discovered on the PATH train tracks about 200 feet from a Jersey City, N.J., station, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey spokesman John Kelly said. He would not confirm reports that the man had walked along the tracks to New Jersey from the World Trade Center station in lower Manhattan.

The police commissioner said neither incident was related to terrorism.

There have been at least nine planned terrorist attacks in the city since the Sept. 11 destruction of the World Trade Center, including some that targeted the subway system. The terrorists involved hoped to detonate explosives on the subway, to release cyanide into the subway system and to collapse commuter train tunnels at ground zero.

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Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.