Yesterdays subway attack in St. Petersburg, Russia which killed 14 people and injured many more demonstrates the terror threat facing subway stations.
A nail bomb with 2.2 pounds of explosives demonstrated in a subway car at the Tekhnologichesky Institut in St. Petersburg. While a second device was discovered and defused at a nearby station. Russian authorities are still searching for two suspects in connection with the bombings.
Subways have increasingly become targets for terrorist attacks because of the large volume of people, numerous entrances and exits and no security screenings.
“The scariest part is that it’s no longer instructions from al-Qaeda. Nowadays, it’s the guy who’s practicing radical terrorism in his living room,” John Poncy, CEO of The Densus Group and a security expert told USA TODAY. “I just think it’s a matter of time – I hate to say this – before it hits a subway system in the United States.”
Sadly, Poncy is likely to be right given the crazy amount of subway attacks in Europe. Suicide bombers attacked Brussels Airport and nearby subway station in 2016, killing 32 people. Back in 2005, suicide bombers killed 52 people in the London Underground and on a double-decker bus.
Global cities like New York have already taken strides to fortify their subway network, and it can be summed up in one word: layers. The issue with most subway systems is the multiple entrances, masses of people and difficulty in scanning passengers who are often commuting to work.
New York uses a combination of plain-clothes officers, uniformed officers, bomb-sniffing dogs, station security, electronic and and video surveillance and significant presences at high-value targets such as Penn Station and Grand Central Station.
Despite all those layers, it’s exceedingly difficult to stop devices that can be strapped to people or carried in regular sized bags, particularly in busy areas. Right now the trade-off between inconveniencing passengers and security concerns is being won by the former. However, with more attacks of this kind it seems inevitable that airport-style metal-detectors will be rolled out at subway stations.