Chicago police to begin searches for explosives

The Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Transit Authority have announced that they will begin a new federally funded counterterrorism initiative to check CTA riders for explosives during the week of Nov. 3.

Teams of four to five Chicago police officers will be deployed several times each week to high-traffic rail stations across the city and will conduct random "swab tests" on the belongings of passengers riding the CTA. The bag "swabbing" process consists of a stick that is capable of detecting explosive materials being carried by riders boarding a CTA train, and it takes less than one minute to complete, according to the department.

Officers will ask for a passenger’s permission to swab their bags before they pay to enter the rail station, and passenger who deny consent will be denied access to the platform. If the screening is negative, the passenger will be allowed to board the train, and if the screening turns positive, officers will search the passenger’s belongings.

The process is similar to other counterterrorism efforts, including the Chicago Amtrak station, and is being taken as a "proactive" precaution, according to the CTA. The program will be implemented one station at a time during its initiation phase in November.

"While there are no credible threats to Chicago or to the region’s public transportation facilities, Chicago is taking this step, as other major cities in the United States and around the world have already done, to ensure the safety of residents and passengers," police superintendent Garry McCarthy said. "Through this effort we are applying global best practices from major transit agencies, and our own successful efforts from major events."