Security measures Amtrak uses to keep riders safe

Passengers board Amtrak train at new station in downtown Grand Rapids. (Oct. 27, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Inside the new Vernon Ehler’s Train Station in Grand Rapids, passengers will not find body scanners and other electronic screening devices like those seen at airports.

But one expert tells 24 Hour News 8 just because you can’t see security measures; it doesn’t mean they are not in place.

“It doesn’t have impact upon the passengers. Many of them don’t realize that their luggage has been screened or that the checks have been made on them,” said Brian Kingshott, Ph.D, a Grand Valley State Criminal Justice Professor. “They have their own uniform police. They have security camera on board. They have random checks of identity. They have random check of luggage.”

Unfortunately, those random checks failed to find the knife carried by Michael Williams when he allegedly attacked four people on Train 364 as it neared the Niles Station Friday.

Amtrak officials declined to answer specific security questions, including if they are considering metal detectors at stations and if this incident will result in any type of review of security procedures?

Instead, 24 Hour News 8 was referred to two statements from over the weekend, one on the specifics of the incident and the second outlining general security measures.

“Amtrak has a robust and layered approach to safety that involves multiple measures including the presence of the Amtrak Police and K9 at hubs and partnerships with local and federal law enforcement to respond and assist along our routes. The APD conducts random and periodic train rides and works with federal and local intelligence groups to ensure our passengers’ security.”

So 24 Hour News 8 turned to Kingshott, a retired Scotland Yard Detective who traveled across the pond to teach at GVSU, for answers.

“If you try and compare them to aircraft, it’s a little bit unfair,” said Kingshott.

He says metal detectors may not be practical for a variety of reasons at train stations, including the number of entrance and exits available to passengers compared to that of an airport, and the relatively low risk of incidents occurring on trains compared to the hassle screening presents for some passengers.

“From my point of view, I’m quite happy to travel on trains,” said Dr. Kingshott. “How many people travel everyday on the rails? How many instances in a year occur on the trains? When we try and put all that into perspective, thinking, well ya know, they’re doing a very, very good job.”

And in the case of Michael Williams, it may have been difficult to make a threat assessment.

It all has to do with the suspect’s mental state.

“You can’t often predict what is going to happen. What happens isn’t rational,” Kingshott said. “It’s totally off the wall so you cannot predict that.”



Amtrak security and safety


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