TSA Begin Takeover of Amtrak Stations Through ‘VIPR Teams’

Editor’s Note: We should all feel a lot safer, now that the TSA is fighting terrorists in our trains stations and terminals. Bring on the rubber gloves.

STEVE WHITWORTH
The Telegraph

ALTON – Agents of the federal Transportation Security Administration conducted a joint security detail with the Alton Police Department at the city’s Amtrak station this week.

“We refer to these as VIPR operations; that stands for visual intermodal protection and response,” TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos said about Tuesday’s operation. “It was not in response to a specific threat.”

Fotenos said the TSA, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, conducts thousands of these operations nationwide every year.

“They have multiple benefits,” he said. “It’s a visual deterrent and has security value. We’re working with local law enforcement and developing relationships, so that if there were an incident that we had to respond to, we have those relationships in advance.”

For security reasons, the TSA does not announce where such operations will be conducted in advance. However, Fotenos said the agency had carried out such operations at the Alton Amtrak station before, including one about a year ago.

“We’ve done them at Amtrak stations and multimodal operations throughout Illinois,” he said.

Although he said he couldn’t be very specific about the purpose of Tuesday’s operation, Fotenos said it was “passenger-based at the actual station.

“A good portion of that is done through the Alton Police Department and the use of their K-9 assets,” Fotenos said. “The TSA also has inspectors on hand. The visual deterrent is important, and also conducting security operations. Our inspectors are looking for a number of things, and the police are looking for a number of things.”

TSA has been conducting such operations for a number of years in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

“Amtrak has always been a great partner, and so has local law enforcement,” Fotenos said. “Many passengers, especially those who ride the rails a lot, are more accustomed to seeing our folks and the local law enforcement there.”

steve_whitworth@thetelegraph.com

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