Chicago to Swab 'L' Riders for Explosives

Passengers to be randomly selected by police
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 24, 2014 5:57 PM CDT
Chicago Readies Bomb Screenings at Train Stations
Commuters wait at an elevated track station for their train as a Chicago Transit Authority on Feb. 1, 2011 in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chicago police will screen the bags of passengers getting on the city's CTA trains in what the department calls a "proactive, protective measure," the Chicago Tribune reports. "We know that surface transportation has been targeted in other places in the past"—places like Madrid and New York—and police "want to take whatever precautions possible," says a spokesman. A few days a week, passengers at a single station will be randomly selected to have their bags swabbed, but not opened, in a check for explosives.

If passengers refuse the test, they'll be required to leave the station, but they can get on the train elsewhere—unless police have "probable cause" to question them, the spokesman says. If a passenger fails the swab test, police will ask to look in his or her bag. The program, funded using a portion of a federal anti-terror grant, has some riders questioning its usefulness. "If they swab one random person's bag, what about the next person who might have something?" asks one passenger. "I think it's just a waste of money and time." As for time, a police officer says it will take "20 to 30 seconds" to do a check, CBS 2 reports. "While we know our commuters’ time is precious, we think their safety is probably priceless." (Read more Chicago stories.)

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