Mass transit riders who see suspicious items will be able to text alerts to law enforcement under a plan unveiled by NJ Transit Wednesday morning.
The new “Text Against Terror” initiative was announced during the transit agency’s board meeting as the newest homeland security measure for the system. The initiative will allow customers to text reports to 65873 if passengers do not want to call the existing terror hotline at 1-888-TIPS-NJT.
“Our customers and employees are our first line of defense in the war against terror,” NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein said in a presentation to the board.
The texting campaign, funded with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is one of the first of its kind for a transit system in the country, according to NJ Transit Police Chief Chris Trucillo. NJ Transit is the nation’s third largest mass transit system, with a million passengers daily.
Trucillo briefed board members on his department’s terrorism initiatives; including the increasing police and canine unit presence at station’s following the death of Osama bin Laden and establishing a counterterrorism unit in the department. He said the counterterrorism unit is working to develop intelligence to identify potential threats to the transit system.
Trucillo also noted that his department is working with local, county and state police officials on terrorism prevention, and has an officer assigned to the FBI’s terrorism task force.
“It’s about partnerships,” he said. “No agency can do it alone.”
The texting program comes less than a month after NJ Transit police on a Raritan Valley Line train in Cranford and to a bomb scare at the Chatham train station. Both scares were deemed to not be explosive devices.
During a press availability following the meeting, Trucillo said his deputy chief recently met with Cranford law enforcement officials to discuss the scare and plan for the future. He noted this is part of on-going meetings his staff has with local police officials in the towns with train stations.
Trucillo said police officers have also been conducting outreach to businesses in a line of sight of all train stations to remind them to call the police if there is an issue. He said over 5,000 businesses have been visited by his department.
Trucillo used his presentation to the board to also highlight the crime fighting activities of the department, including announcing that crime in the transit system has gone down 26.2-percent in 2011. He also showcased the department’s canine unit by having a bomb-sniffing dog demonstrate how to find a potential bomb in a bag.
“The chances of being a victim of a part one crime on New Jersey Transit is one in every 200,000 trips,” Trucillo said.