FARMINGTON As the FrontRunner train slid into the station here, a group of armed police officers was on the platform to greet it.
"Should we get on the train?" one commuter said, wondering if a crime took place.
The heavy police presence at the train station and another in Layton on Wednesday is part of a new Homeland Security initiative to focus on surface transportation security, such as commuter trains and buses. The Visual Intermodal Presence and Response (VIPR) operation focused on the newly operating FrontRunner train system stretching from Salt Lake City to Ogden.
"Our whole methodology is random and unpredictable," said local Transportation Security Administration director Earl Morris. "On any given day, you will see a strong presence. On another day, you won't see us, but we're here."
On the platform and the overhead pedestrian bridge, uniformed TSA officers stood guard. Armed federal air marshals and local police officers patrolled along the platform. Plainclothes officers blended with commuters on the trains.
The officers are specially trained to detect behavior among passengers in an effort to stop any potential threats.
"We don't divulge specifically what we're looking for," Morris said. "There is a difference between a person who is late for a train ... and people who are nervous because they've been involved in criminal activity."
Many commuters felt the entire operation was overkill.
"This much? All the time? No, definitely not," said Charity Kaneko of Centerville. "It would be nice to have somebody here all the time, but 25?"
Steve Keisel of Fruit Heights rides the train daily and said he has always felt safe.
"I've never felt threatened before, so I'm not sure it's going to make much difference, really," he said Wednesday.
Morris acknowledged there are no specific threats against mass transit but noted that vigilance is needed after commuter train bombings in recent years in Madrid and London.
With a cooperative effort among federal, state and local law enforcement, a police presence can be maintained on commuter trains.
"You have limited resources," Morris said. "Aviation security remains the top priority of the Transportation Security Administration. However, surface transportation is a huge part of doing business everyday. We recognize there are a lot of people who are riding mass transit systems."
TSA hopes to be proactive and prevent problems from developing."People can expect to see more and more of this," Morris said.
E-mail: [email protected]