NYPD plans to step up subway patrols
By The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Teams of police officers equipped with submachine guns and bomb-sniffing dogs have become a part of the landscape of post-Sept. 11 New York, patrolling around Wall Street and such landmarks as the Empire State building.
Similar squads are set to begin daily patrols of the busiest sections of the city subways this month, in what officials describe as a first for a U.S. mass transit system.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that a major boost in funding from the Department of Homeland Security made the extra protection possible for the city's vast subway system, long considered a potential target for terrorists.
''Whether conventional crime or terrorist threat, we will not let our guard down,'' Kelly said at a news conference at Grand Central Terminal, where officials announced the increase in security dollars.
Teams comprising a sergeant, five officers and a bomb-sniffing dog will circulate each day on subway platforms and trains, focusing on stations below Grand Central, Penn Station, Herald Square and other high-traffic spots, officials said.
In recent years, similar, so-called Hercules units -- distinguished by their special black uniforms, helmets and body armor -- have patrolled above ground as part of the NYPD's response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Kelly said Friday that the New York subway system ''is the safest it's been in memory,'' but he noted that it has been the target of several terrorist plots.
The police department's transit division already conducts random bag checks and inspects subway tunnels and ventilation systems in search of explosive devices. Hidden cameras register any suspicious action.
At Friday's news conference, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced that transit systems in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey will receive $151.2 million in new grant money -- an increase of more than 50 percent from last year's figure of $98 million.
Associated Press Writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.