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While most of us will be around the grill for a barbeque or on the couch watching football, the Department of Homeland Security will on high alert this Labor Day weekend. The agency tasked with everything from immigration and border protection, to monitoring cell phone service, will be keeping a watchful eye on the nation's railroads over the next few days.
In addition to asking for increased public vigilance on a busy travel weekend, DHS and the Transportation Security Administration will be stepping up their presence on commuter trains.
"Operation Rail Safe," as Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson described to ABC News, will be an "enhanced security presence" over the Labor Day weekend that will include additional canine explosive detection sweeps and random bag checks. There will also be additional Visual Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) patrols. VIPR squads are made up of air marshals, behavior detection offers, and explosive experts specializing in rail threats.
While Johnson says he has "great confidence in the safety of rail travel" in the United States, he reminded travelers, "the public can participate in homeland security -- that's what 'if you see something, say something' is all about."
With packed highways and overcrowded airports on a holiday weekend, trains are a great alternative for getting out of town for a few days. Unfortunately, they've also been the target of terrorists overseas. Three Americans helped subdue an armed gunman on a train bound for Paris last month.
Johnson may have a special interest in keeping the railways safe this weekend. The roots of Labor Day lie in a strike against the Pullman railway company in 1894, and, according to ABC, Johnson is the descendant of a Pullman porter.
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