Random Bag Searches on Metro

Metro’s new Red and White Signs indicating you are in a “we can look in your bags” zone.

According to The Washington Post, Metro announced it intends to conduct random bag inspections of passengers using the system.  Five to eight Metro Police officers (along with a bomb sniffing dog) are now fully trained and ready to show up and start looking in the bags of Metro Rail and Bus users.  The checks won’t happen at all stations or happen all the time but only “when transit police determine that circumstances- such as an elevated threat level- warrant heightened vigilance.”

I, for one, have some serious concerns about this program.  Truthfully, my thoughts on all security check-points can be mostly summed up by George Carlin’s discussion of “Airport Security” (Lots of foul language by the way)-but I’m not a complete idiot.  I realize that we live in a post-9/11 world and that there are people who would like to do some serious damage to our Nation’s Capitol.  But:

  • There are only eight officers ready to go.   Even assuming one officer can handle a station on their own (which is doubtful) that’s 8 rail stations/Bus stops out of…well… a whole lot more than eight (there are a 12,216 bus stops and 86 stations.  You do the math.  I can’t).  How effective could this possibly be?
  • Let’s pretend someone wanted to blow something up and they were going to use Metro to deliver their explosive device.  Let’s even pretend that Metro knows what this person wants to blow up and where they are likely to get on the train.  The real pain about Metro for these inspections?  It’s all connected.  If the target is the Pentagon and the bomber lives near me between the Airport and Pentagon City Mall-It’s just as easy to walk to Crystal City as it is the Pentagon City Metro.  It wouldn’t be much more difficult to take a bus down to Braddock Rd. and get on the train down there.  So if you’ve got eight people at the gates of even three Metro stops-they can’t get to what is already on the Metro from a point further out.
  • Inspections only concern those people who actually ride the Metro.  You can (and should be able to) refuse the bag search so long as you don’t mind not getting on the train/bus.  Well at least at that station anyway…or at least until Metro Police leave.  They won’t detain anyone who refuses a bag check either-which might come in handy if you happen to be carrying anything else that you wouldn’t want Metro to find-not necessarily just a bomb.  (You know in case you’re like me and smuggle breakfast on to the train each morning…)
  • I’m not a big believer in the 5-10 second bag search by the way.  Even at baseball games (where at least they search everyone and not just every Nth person a la the Metro system) they do this kind of half assed “make sure nothing is obvious” search.  Maybe I don’t understand the mind or a terrorist/violent person but if I’m planning on perpetrating some violence on Metro I think I would take the time to hide my bomb a bit better than to stick it at the bottom of my briefcase.
  • Inconvenience.  I’m willing to forgive a lot of things, including some hassle at the train station, if it will make DC safer for everyone.  I just don’t really think this will-so the idea of me getting stuck behind the tourist family taking 20 bags to Reagan to fly home for no good reason really…ugh.

This of course is just one view.  Maybe I’m missing something?  Agree?  Disagree?  What do you think about Metro’s new Bag Searching Policy?

2 Comments so far

  1. DCBlogs » DC Blogs Noted (pingback) on October 27th, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

    [...] Random Bag Searches on Metro. Metblogs, which writes: I, for one, have some serious concerns about this program. imetro also writes: Maybe I should carry random stuff in my bad. Mouse traps, a thong, and a headless barbie doll. I wonder if that would get me arrested, or labeled as a person of interest. [...]


  2. jjgoldston on October 28th, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

    I completely agree with the idea of policing the Metro better, it feels like one could walk onto a train with whatever they want. However, what are they thinking by hiring only 8 people? This is just gonna make them look stupid, there is now incentive to ‘sneak’ contraband on, eating on the trains will be even more enjoyable knowing they’re ‘looking’ for it.



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