The police last night began random searches of backpacks and packages brought into the New York City subways as officials expressed alarm about the latest bomb incidents in the London transit system.New Yorkers don't tolerate being inconvenienced very well. Or I should say, we don't tolerate being more inconvenienced than we already are. According to this story, reaction was fairly supportive. But that's before anyone missed a train because a cop was pawing through their bag.
The searches, which will also include commuter rail lines, are not a response to a specific threat against the city, said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who authorized the searches shortly before he announced them at a morning news conference.
The police have previously inspected bags at major events like parades and demonstrations, and the authorities in Boston conducted random baggage searches on commuter rail lines during the Democratic National Convention last year, but officials here could not recall a precedent for a broad, systematic search of packages in the New York City subways, which provide 4.7 million rides each weekday.
At some of the busiest of the city's 468 stations, riders will be asked to open their bags for a visual check before they go through the turnstiles. Those who refuse will not be permitted to bring the package into the subway but will be able to leave the station without further questioning, officials said.
. . .
William W. Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association, an industry group, said comprehensive coverage of any major urban transit system would be next to impossible. "If you were going to try to check a very high percentage at every station or on every train, it would be incredibly labor-intensive," he said.
Still, he said, the searches could deter would-be attackers and improve the public's confidence. "The public wants to feel safe, as well as be safe," he said. "So this has a benefit of perception."
The reaction story quotes the great Gene Russianoff, who serves as the subway riders' voice:
Gene Russianoff, a lawyer at the New York Public Interest Research Group, said searches would invade people's privacy. "We'll see what riders think," he said. "I think you have the same odds of protecting people through random searches as you do of winning the Lotto."Then the Times makes a rider who opposes the searches sound stupid by quoting her word for word:
Annie Simon, 24, a costume designer from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, called the random searches "completely stupid."Perhaps Annie Simon doesn't want her freedom, like, compromised, and she knows that random searches of backpacks won't make her any, like, safer.
"It's a good way to catch people for other things," she said as she rode the uptown A train in Manhattan. "It's a complete obstruction of, like, freedom."
It will be interesting to see how long this lasts - and who gets stopped. If this happened in London, how long will it be until it happens here?