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March 22, 2016

SEPTA police step up patrols along Philly's transit system in wake of Brussels attacks

Public Safety Transportation
Septa Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

This image shows a SEPTA train.

Commuters will notice more SEPTA police patrolling the transportation authority's rail and bus lines in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, SEPTA Police Chief Thomas Nestel III said during a briefing Tuesday morning.

"We will be more visible, and we are asking the public to be more aware," Nestel said, adding there is no information suggesting an attack is imminent in Philadelphia or elsewhere in the United States.

The increased police presence at SEPTA stations and along routes includes the use of explosive-detecting K-9s, Nestel said. Beyond that, he declined to provide specific details about how the SEPTA police force would be deployed.

RELATED ARTICLE: Deadly blasts hit Brussels airport in terror attacks

"The important thing to remember is that terrorism cannot stop a people," Nestel said. "We won't allow terrorists to interfere with our lives. At the same time, we want to make sure that our riders here in Philadelphia feel safe and secure."

The Philadelphia International Airport also is increasing police presence in and around the airport, spokeswoman Mary Flannery said. The wait time to pass through security remains consistent with a Tuesday.

An American Airlines nonstop flight to Brussels has been cancelled. 

Nestel stressed it is important for commuters to call 911 if someone sees something suspicious, such as an unattended bag.

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

The briefing took place hours after a terrorist attack killed at least 31 people in Brussels. The Islamic State has since claimed responsibility for the attack, according to reports.

An explosion on a Brussels subway train left at least 15 people dead and an additional 55 injured, according to the Associated Press. Another pair of explosions erupted in a departure hall of the Belgian city's airport, causing more bloodshed.

Whenever there is a terroristic attack, Nestel said the intelligence network "opens wide" and law enforcement starts sharing information. Nestel said SEPTA has been in contact with federal authorities.

"As the investigation continues about what happened in Brussels, it (likely) will be the same pattern that we have seen in other  terroristic attacks – that is bags with explosives," Nestel said. "When a bag is left unattended on a platform, on a train, on a bus, we want to know right away. We will respond expeditiously to clear that bag. 

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