SEPTA boosts security measures at home in wake of Belgian terror attacks

Charles Mostoller

“Please, bother us. If you see something, say something.”

That was the message of SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel Tuesday morning as he urged Philadelphians to be vigilant in the wake of deadly terror attacks overseas.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks in the Brussels, Belgium, airport and aboard a rush-hour metro train on Tuesday, which took the lives of 34 people.

Philadelphia transit safety officials are taking extra precautions Tuesday in the wake of these attacks, and while Nestel wouldn’t give specifics as to deployment numbers, he did say Philadelphians can expect to see SEPTA police “more visible” in the coming days.

RELATED:Attacks on Brussels airport, metro kill at least 30

“Without talking about specific numbers, I can tell you that we will be more visible and we are asking the public to be more aware,” said Nestel.

“If you see something suspicious and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, we want to know. Call 911 immediately.”

When asked about when and where security measures would be upped across SEPTA’s transit map, Nestel said it would be counterproductive to give that information, as it would defy SEPTA’s security stance.

“I can tell you that we are doing everything we believe is necessary to keep the public safe,” he said.

By mid-morning Tuesday,Nesteland other officials from Philadelphia International Airport, Amtrak and more than 50 other law enforcement executives from around the country were on a conference call to discuss the next steps going forward.

“Everybody is keyed-in on what has happened and everybody is acting accordingly,” said Nestel.

“No bag is beyond suspicion. I know that folks are reluctant to call 911 because they think they’re burdening the police or bothering the police. Bother us. Call 911.”

Diane Gerace, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia International Airport, told Metro that passengers should expect to see an increased presence of uniformed law enforcement in and around the airport.

“In addition, as always, we encourage passengers to follow the advice of Homeland Security – if you see something, say something,” she said.

Unionized airport workers – specifically the wheelchair attendants and skycaps – had planned a one-day strike on Wednesday to protest what they called unfair wages lower than $12 an hour, but decided against it Tuesday.

RELATED:Flight from Philadelphia makes emergency landing in Boston

“PHL airport workers who were set to strike Tuesday and Wednesday decided to postpone the work stoppage in light of the horrific tragedy which unfolded today at the Brussels airport and subway,” said Julie Blust, regional communications manager for 32BJ SEIU.

Baggage handlers, cabin cleaners and other unionized workers at the airport did receive a bump in pay to $12 in July of last year.

“Airport workers were ready to draw attention to the myriad of issues they face at the workplace, including unfair labor practices, health and safety issues and concerns over sick time and not receiving the $12 minimum wage,” said Blust.

Blust said workers at other major airport hubs including New York City, Newark, N.J., Washington, D.C., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Seattle, Wash., Chicago, Ill., and Boston, Mass., had also planned a one-day strike, but it was unclear late Tuesday if those were still going into motion.

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