Elite police force guards VRE from terrorist plots

Monday - 5/16/2011, 11:58am EDT

VIPR team members patrol Union Station. (Courtesy of VRE)

WASHINGTON -- Following news that Osama bin Laden planned to target trains, a local rail provider asked immediately for additional, elite police presence to beef up security.

The Virginia Railway Express does not have its own dedicated police force, instead employing local and federal law enforcement partners. The nine local jurisdictions which own the rail system have increased police patrols on trains, platforms and parking facilities.

"We have 130 undercover officers who ride everyday who are the eyes and ears of the system," says spokesperson Mark Roeber. Up to five or six undercover officers are on any given Virginia Railway Express trains, including members of the Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response team, who are armed and trained specially.

"It's one of their elite divisions," Roeber says of VIPR, a part of the Transportation Security Administration. "Much like a SWAT team but much more specialized training."

Where and when the team shows up is completely random, he says. The unpredictability makes VRE a harder target for terrorists to pin down.

WTOP's Kathy Stewart contributed to this report.

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