The newest Chicago Police counter-terrorism effort will involve assigning officers to high-traffic CTA train stations to randomly check riders’ bags for explosives.
Chicago Police said Friday that this is not in response to any threat, but simply because the department received some federal money to buy the equipment and start the program.
“While there are no credible threats to Chicago or to the region’s public transportation facilities, Chicago is taking this step, as other major cities in the United States and around the world have already done, to ensure the safety of residents and passengers,” Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said in a statement.
The testing will involve selecting passengers at random based on a number system, for example, pulling aside every 10th rider to have their bags swabbed for explosives.
“It’s going to be random and unpredictable, so nobody will know before the start of the day where we will be going to set up, or at what station,” said Commander Nancy Lipman, who heads up the Chicago Police Public Transportation Section.
Police will set up testing stations outside the turnstile areas at a different station every day. After the outside of bags are swabbed, the cloth is put into a machine which analyzes and provides results within about 30 seconds.
The machines will only test for explosives, not drugs or anything else. The screening will be voluntary, but those who refuse will not be allowed on the train.
“If they refuse to be screened and still attempt to access our system, they are subject to arrest, that’s still within our own discretion,” said Adam Paulson, a Chicago Police Intelligence Officer.
More than 700,000 people ride CTA trains every day, according to the CTA’s website. Those FOX 32 News spoke to seemed fine with the program, with a couple of caveats.
“We do those kinds of measures at airports, as long as it’s, as people aren’t being unfairly profiled,” said CTA rider Jenna Kelly.
And even though police said they don’t believe the testing will cause any significant delays for riders, some were skeptical.
“If they do it in the morning, I definitely think it would delay me. They already have problems, delays on the train,” said rider Zarren Manuel.
The program is set to start November 3.