NFTA increases security presence following attacks in Brussels

NFTA seeks to make public and employees feel more secure

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — U.S. cities are ramping up security following terrorist attacks at an airport and subway station in Brussels.

Here in the Buffalo-Niagara region security was bolstered at both airports and the Metro Rail system.

“Ironically, we have both of those similar facilities. We have two airports and a metro rail system that includes a tunnel. So, we are very, very conscious of those types of security concerns,” said Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority.

The increased police presence is not in response to any local threat, but to make the public and employees feel more secure, according to Hartmayer.

“You’ll see officers in some cases. And in some cases you could be standing next to an NFTA officer and not even know it,” he said.

Mary O’Brien was among the passengers arriving at the Buffalo-Niagara Airport Tuesday. She traveled from St. Paul, Minnesota where she noticed longer lines and stricter screening.

“I’d rather go a little bit slower and make sure that they’re checking people then to have something happen,” said O’Brien.

Randy Walker flew in from Phoenix, Arizona where he noticed some differences at checkpoints in the airport.

“They kind of dwindled it down to kind of one line and one checkpoint. I didn’t understand what that was about. But it was a little hectic,” Walker said.

And while the Brussels attacks are ugly and shocking, a retired Buffalo FBI special agent in charge says people need to understand that “we’re at war.”

“This is not the new norm. This is the norm. This has been the norm since the twin towers were attacked. It has not changed,” said Peter Ahearn, president and founder of Ahearn Consulting, LLC. “We just haven’t had the war on our shores as much as other people in Europe and in Asia have had.”

Ahearn, who’s consulting company works with government contracting firms and private industry on matters involving national security and law enforcement, says these types of terrorist attacks are an ongoing situation.

“This is what we’ll be dealing with for the foreseeable future, and I will probably have to see this until I’m dead, buried and in the ground.”

At this point the U.S. State Department has issued a travel alert for Europe as intelligence indicates terrorist groups continue to plan attacks throughout Europe. The alert will remain active through June 20.

“It’s a personal decision. If you want to go ahead and travel that’s up to you. But we do remind people to take precautions,” said Elizabeth Carey, public affairs manager for AAA Western & Central New York.

Experts with AAA are urging international travelers to register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program which is designed to make it easier for the nearest embassy or consulate to make contact in case of an emergency.

“No matter where you’re traveling, be it overseas, even Disney World, be aware of your surroundings. Make sure you know the area. Know where you’re going. Take a look at a map beforehand so you’re familiar with things,” Carey said.

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