Saturday, May 22, 2004


Those those who wonder why I have little to no confidence in SEPTA's "rent-a-cops", here's a pretty damn good reason...

According to broadcast reports on ABC News, SEPTA employees reportedly found a suspicious device near one of the tracks at Powelton Yard. The FBI had been notified by SEPTA and was investigating at last report. However, there had been reports that the device was stored in a SEPTA Police locker for a week before it was turned over to the FBI.

SEPTA and the FBI issued a press release on the issue:

SEPTA Transit Police, Philadelphia police and the FBI are continuing to investigate a device discovered along a track in a rail car storage yard near 30th Street Station.

The device, described as a commercial motion detector, was discovered by a SEPTA employee on May 5, and later turned over to the FBI for analysis.

The investigation, to date, shows no indication of any threat to the security of the SEPTA rail system. At this time, there is no evidence to indicate that this device has any nexus to terrorism. However, due to current security awareness, the incident is being thoroughly investigated and all law enforcement agencies have been advised.

The device was located along storage Track #11 in Powelton Yard, a considerable distance from operating passenger trains and the 30th Street Station.

With heightened security awareness, SEPTA Transit Police have been responding to reports of suspicious items on almost a daily basis.

Most items are found to be personal articles lost or left behind by SEPTA passengers. For instance, an average of five cellular telephones are discovered every day on SEPTA vehicles or facilities.

SEPTA has been reminding its passengers to be alert for suspicious people or objects and immediately report anything out of the ordinary to uniformed SEPTA employees or the police.
Press Release

Later turned over to the FBI? If this was a device that didn't look like a normal item that a typical passenger would carry, why not turn it over to the FBI right away? Besides, why in the hell would a typical passenger be loitering around a major rail yard in the first place?

Well, it turns out the worst suspicions about a delay in response are true, according to the Daily News:

Officials yesterday said that so far, the investigation shows "no evidence" linking the transmitting device to a potential terrorist act.

At the same time, however, there was concern over the handling of the device following its discovery May 5 - and the fact that a full week elapsed before SEPTA officials notified federal authorities and handed it over.

Jim Jordan, SEPTA's assistant general manager for public and operational safety, said officials were most concerned because there was "no logical reason for this device to be where it was.

"We assumed it was deliberately placed there."
Daily News

DUH! As if the "suspicious device fairy" snuck in overnight and accidentially left it there...

He said the device had been painted a dark color and was discovered by a conductor buried in gravel along the rail bed of Track 11 in Powelton Yard, an open but restricted area extending west of 30th Street station.

That track is located away from the rails normally used by passenger trains and is used most often to store and shuttle rail cars.

Jordan described the motion detector as commercially made and approximately the size of a fist. Operating on a 9-volt battery, it is similar to the kinds of above-ground detectors used to signal house lights to go on or to signal a garage door to open. He said SEPTA does not use such motion detectors in its rail yards.

Asked if the transmitting device could be used as part of a detonation system, he said:

"It sends a radio signal... there is certainly that potential."
Daily News

Seven days between the discovery of the device and actually notifying the FBI? Is anybody at 1234 Market awake? I'm sure the rocket scientists within the Transit Police Department never bothered to take the time to report this to the FBI right away. But, let's remember this is a department that appears incapable of doing the most basic of law enforcement, such as patroling high-risk areas during peak hours ... not for terrorist activity, but general public safety.

If it's any consolation, though, SEPTA did offer a warning for absent-minded passengers who forget leave personal belongings behind:

"If somebody leaves a briefcase, we call the bomb squad," said Jim Whitaker, a spokesman for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. AP

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