Canadian Security Magazine

On the road

By Mel Gedruj   

Features Municipal Matters Opinion cpted public transit rail secure transit terrorist attack Transport Canada

Moving people on roads and rail and delivering goods such as food, machinery and parts is big business in North America.

Public Transit security relies on two modes of operation: rail and buses. While they face many similar risks, rail-based systems deal with fixed links while buses may use alternate routes if need be. Due to the frequency of use, it is not always practical to institute metal detectors, bag search and other technologies used at airports. If we add that traditionally rail transit security was more concerned with insuring that all passengers have paid their fare, it paints a challenging picture to achieve desirable outcomes.

To remind us how deadly transit terrorist attacks can be, recall that on a hot August 1980 day, a bomb exploded at the Bologna train station at 10:25 a.m. causing the largest amount of casualties in Italy since the second world war.

In Madrid, on March 11, 2005, later dubbed 3/11, 10 simultaneous bombs exploded on four different commuter trains causing 192 fatalities and thousands of injured commuters. The July 7 London bombing is remembered as 7/7. It affected both the “underground tube” and double decker buses, and resulted in 52 deaths and hundreds of victims. The most recent attack was in the Brussels’ metro last year.

Bus bombings are even more frequent and too numerous to list here.


The events listed here are at the extreme end of the security spectrum but there are other threats that manifest themselves on a more frequent basis — attacks on drivers and conductors and passenger-on-passenger violence in many cases resulting in injuries and often making transit less appealing to the general public.

So what can be done? Transport Canada’s Transit Secure initiative from 2006 to 2009 was an extensive program to identify and address security risks for both rail and bus transit that delivered a marked improvement, at least in larger cities.

As for others, it expanded their security awareness. The American Public Transit Association is a rich source of standards and guidelines. They cover all aspects from CPTED to video, access control and security lighting. Transit security is a challenging field and requires extensive resources, which smaller municipalities often lack. In the case of large subway transits, police services maybe be directly providing security while special constables or their equivalent would be involved in fare and bylaw enforcement. This setup is due to the fact that police officers are professionally better trained and equipped to deal with violent crime.

Cargo theft is sometimes viewed as a victimless crime. A truck or trailer is stolen, the cargo is insured and when nobody has been physically harmed, the public is largely unaware of how often this problem occurs. Police services do not usually have an adequate number of officers dedicated to cargo theft as there are many other more pressing law enforcement demands. Another cargo security stream is when trucks carry trans-border shipments. To streamline the cross border cargo traffic arriving by sea and destined to the U.S., the Integrated Cargo Security Strategy was concluded in 2015.

Another initiative is the pre-inspection by U.S. border services on the Canadian side of the border to pre-clear trucks entering the United States. U.S. Homeland Security publishes guidelines for cross-border cargo traffic, requiring drivers to undergo a background check and establish rules of how cargo can be picked up or delivered.

Finally, the Custom Trade Partnership against Terrorism is a public-private sector program constituting another security layer to facilitate the movement of goods.

In these days of just-in-time delivery, any disruption of the supply chain may lead to depletion of food stocks in supermarkets and spare parts in manufacturing plants.

Mel Gedruj, OAA, CSPM is the president of V2PM Inc., specialized in municipal security management planning.

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