BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Maryland Transit Administration Police are in a “heightened state of awareness” following a New York City terror attack Monday.
“The terrorist attack this morning at New York’s Port Authority Bus Terminal provides a stark reminder to all our MDOT MTA patrons and employees to be vigilant whenever they travel,” MDOT MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn told WJZ in a statement.
The ISIS-inspired, lone wolf attack on a busy transit system shows the vulnerability of soft targets.
New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill identified the suspect as Akayed Ullah, 27, who sustained injuries from the blast near times Square and was in police custody. Several people near the blast suffered minor injuries.
“Transportation is one of the softer targets we look at because it’s so big and so many people depend on it, and there’s also been a balancing of security and efficiency,” said Mike Vesely with the University of Maryland School of Law’s Center for Health and Homeland Security. “People will not tolerate an hour’s security check to get on a train. They just won’t. So as a society, we’ve made a balance that we’re going to have to accept some level of risk when it comes to potential targets like that.”
“They’re appealing targets for people who want to cause immediate damage, destruction, and horror. But also as we saw in New York today, when you impact even a passenger walkway, it completely disrupts the city’s normal movement of commuters and residents throughout,” he said. “That has economic consequences, too.”
Baltimore City has tried to harden some high-risk areas, like barriers placed outside police headquarters. Officials here also maintain close contact with the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“Baltimore’s terrorism risk profile is largely defined by our proximity to Washington, D.C. Every city has potential targets that are appealing to terrorist organizations or lone actors, so every city needs to be aware of what’s going on,” Vesely said.
He talked about the importance of local police involvement.
“When you think about a lone wolf actor, who is more likely to know that someone in a specific community is being radicalized or is showing radical behavior? It’s not the FBI. It’s the local law enforcement,” Vesely said.
Amtrak issued a statement to WJZ:
“We have increased security measures in place at stations, on trains, and we continue to partner with federal, state, and local agencies to gather intelligence information.”
A dozen Marylanders have been arrested over the past decade on terrorism-related charges.
Howard County teen Mohammad Khalid had a full Johns Hopkins scholarship and became the youngest person in the United States sentenced for a terrorist plot.
Antonio Martinez tried to blow up a Catonsville Army recruiting center, and Owings Mills High alum Majid Khan helped bomb an Indonesian hotel.
Last year, a man who lived in Harford County was indicted after pledging allegiance to ISIS. Court records show that the Maryland Transportation Authority Police pulled over Sayfullo Saipov six years ago near the Hatem Bridge in Havre De Grace while he was driving a commercial vehicle. Saipov was accused of a deadly terror attack in October in Lower Manhattan.