The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority announced June 12 it has been awarded a certificate of merit for security by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), for its policing initiatives as part of the 2013 Rail Safety and Security Excellence Awards.
This recognition is the result of the authority's commitment to increasing rail safety and security on Metro rail systems. the NFTA Transit Police has made these commitments a reality; and as such, counter-terrorism has been a top priority in recent years.
The NFTA's counter-terrorism unit, which includes the largest K-9 force in the region, conducts random VIPR (Visible Intermodal Protect and Respond) sweeps by screening individuals for explosive devices. The purpose of a VIPR exercise is to have a large, continual, visible police presence within the rail system to deter potential terrorist acts. This initiative combined with the vigilant support of local businesses along the 6.4 mile Metro Rail line has reduced crime overall by an impressive 20 percent this past year.
This program was made possible by a grant through the 2009 Transit Security Grant Program (ARRA funding). As of May 31, the grant has expired. The authority is currently in the process of submitting an application to renew funding, in hopes of maintaining ongoing police efforts.
Police Chief George W. Gast stated "The success of the counter-terrorism team was a collaborative effort between the transit police force and local transit community. It is imperative that this funding continues in order to capitalize on the effects of this program."