BALTIMORE - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) and Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA) announced that three explosives detection canine teams are now providing security for MARC, MTA buses and light rail. The teams are part of a joint effort between the federal TSA and local MTA and MdTA to provide authorities with a reliable, efficient and mobile tool to enhance security.
The new teams are Sergeant Louis Jones, and his dog, Brix; Officer Donald Page and his dog, Rolf; and Officer Nicholas Frazier, and his dog, Balu. All three dogs are German Shepards and were trained through the TSA National Explosives Detection Canine Handler Course in San Antonio, Texas.
“These highly trained officers and canines are one of the most sophisticated tools we have for detecting explosives and are an integral part of our layered approach to transportation security,” says Dave Kontny, TSA’s Director of the National Explosives Detection Canine Team Program. “These animals also have the advantage that they can go almost anywhere in the rail and mass transit environment so we can significantly increase security across a very diverse system.”
Launched in August 2005, the mass transit canine initiative looks to expand TSA’s successful training program involving approximately 400 dogs at 77 airports nationwide to eleven of the nation’s busiest mass transit systems. Baltimore’s MTA and MdTA are among the first systems in the country to have all three teams on the job as part of this program.
“This is just the latest example of Maryland’s initiative to join forces with our federal partners to deploy a variety of security measures in our transportation systems,“ said Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Director Dennis R. Schrader. “Canine teams are a proven counter-terrorism measure, and we are building upon our capabilities in this area.”
The canine program is a close partnership between the federal government and local transportation entities. TSA pays to train the canine, provides in-depth training for the handler, and partially reimburses the participating agency for costs associated with the teams, such as salaries, overtime, canine food and veterinary care.
During training, officers were provided instruction on handler skills, explosives safety, and safe handling and accountability of explosives canine training aids. The canine team spent much of their time searching for explosives in specialized indoor and outdoor training areas that resemble the airport/mass transit environment, including aircraft searches where teams check cockpits, cabins, and overhead storage bins. The teams also practice searching warehouses, luggage and a parking lot filled with cars, trucks, vans and buses.
Because canine teams combine excellent mobility with reliable detection rates, their use has evolved to include searching areas in response to bomb threats associated with airport terminals and aircraft, rail facilities, luggage, cargo and vehicles, as well as serving as a proven deterrent to would-be terrorists or criminals.
For more information regarding TSA, see the website at www.tsa.gov.