The uniformed, armed police standing at train station platforms and buses Wednesday morning were part of the agency's counter-terrorism and crime deterrence initiative, and not in reaction to any particular event, officials said today.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, NJ Transit Police Chief Christopher Trucillo said that today was the first day a nationwide effort called BUSSAFE, an extension of RAILSAFE launched one year ago to improve safety. The initiative included increased inspections and patrols of terminals, facilities and bus garages.
"Today was designated as a day where transit agencies across the county would engage in a program to increase uniform police visibility," Trucillo said.
Participating officers boarded busses, chatted with bus drivers, and stood guard near bus and rail stations throughout the day to emphasize their presence and instill a sense of security in customers, Trucillo explained. No additional bag searches took place.
"Just to step on a bus and have somebody visually look in the bus, and have the folks on the bus see a police presence, and to give a sense of security to folks who use the bus daily," Trucillo said.
Twenty-eight local police departments, the NJ Transit Police Department, and TSA surface inspectors participated in the BUSSAFE initiative.
Participating police departments spanned the state, including Cresskill, Englewood, Franklin Lakes, Edison, South Brunswick, Beachwood, Lakewood, Tenafly, and the Port Authority. Police departments were allowed to choose whether or not they would participate, based on availability of personnel and resources, Trucillo said.
Across the country, the increase in police visibility included multiple cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Boston, and Dallas.
According to Trucillo, there have been no credible terroristic threats made against NJ Transit bus lines, however he emphasized the importance of being prepared for the worst case scenario.
"We've got to be forward thinking and we look at what goes on in other parts of the world. I think that's the importance of the initiation of BUSSAFE," he said.
Approximately 600,000 customers use NJ Transit a day.
Although a date has not been set, a nationwide increase in police visibility will likely occur again, according to Trucillo.
In addition to BUSSAFE and RAILSAFE, NJ Transit is halfway complete with training all of their approximately 11,000 employees on how to recognize suspicious behavoir, Trucillo said. The transit agency also has a tip line, 1-888-TIPS-NJT, and promotes a "See something, say something," campaign.