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Chicago Police To Begin Random Explosives Screenings At CTA Stations

CHICAGO (CBS) -- New security measures have been announced to improve safety on CTA trains, under a federal counter-terrorism initiative.

CBS 2's Susanna Song reports, starting Nov. 3, if you ride the "L," prepare to be asked to hand your bags, purses, or suitcases to a Chicago police officer to be screened for explosives at some stations.

Passengers will be selected at random before passing through turnstiles at CTA train stations.

Police officers with a mobile explosive screening team will swab bags and place the sample in a machine to check for explosive compounds. Bags will not be opened. The test takes only about 30 seconds.

"We know the fears and the possibilities. It's going to take 20 to 30 seconds of someone's time. While we know our commuters' time is precious, we think their safety is probably priceless," Chicago Police Public Transportation Cmdr. Nancy Lipman said.


Anyone chosen for a random screening must comply, or they will be denied entry to the platform. If they try to access the platform after refusing a screening, they could be arrested.

"If they refuse to be screened, and still attempt to access to our system, they are subject to arrest. That's still within our own discretions. We'll attempt to stop them from making that choice to enter the system, but at the end of the day … they are subject to arrest," Chicago Police Officer Adam Paulsen said.

Police demonstrated the machines Friday morning at the Clinton station on the Green Line, choosing one out of every ten passengers to enter the station for screening.

The city has invested in three such screening machines. Four to five officers will be designated each day to screen at random stations. Police will select a random number of passengers to screen each day.

The program is being funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to provide an extra level of protection against possible terrorist attacks. A dollar amount for the program was not available.

A similar initiative has been launched in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Amtrak uses a similar screening process at some stations.

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