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Cyanide discovery in storage room draws attention to security in Chicago subway system

CHICAGO (AP) _ Police and transit officials say they plan to tighten security in Chicago's subway system following the arrest of a man who stashed cyanide and other chemicals in an underground storage room.

Joseph Konopka, 25, was returned to the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Wednesday after waiving his right to a bond hearing before a federal magistrate who called him ``an extreme danger to the community.''

Konopka, formerly of De Pere, Wis., was arrested Saturday in a steam tunnel at the University of Illinois at Chicago. A 15-year-old also picked up in the tunnel told police about the cyanide and other chemicals Konopka had allegedly stashed in the tunnel system.

The teen was charged in juvenile court with criminal trespass and released to his parents' custody.

Cmdr. Ed Gross, head of the police unit that patrols the Chicago Transit Authority, promised an immediate security clampdown. He said anyone found trespassing in the subway system will be arrested, fingerprinted and subjected to a background check.

City officials have said Konopka's arrest exposed vulnerabilities in a rail system that handles 500,000 passengers a day.

``If there were disbelievers that there could be a threat to our system, they are believers now,'' Gross said.

Konopka had been living in the tunnels for weeks and managed to swap locks on doors so only his keys could open them, officials said. Officials have now begun an evaluation of all underground areas in the subway system to see if some should be sealed off, transit authority President Frank Kruesi said.

Federal prosecutors have 30 days to bring charges against Konopka. Federal Magistrate Judge Edward A. Bobrick said Wednesday that he would not have granted Konopka a bond hearing if he had requested one.

Defense attorney Matthew Madden declined to comment after the hearing.

Konopka is wanted for bail jumping on vandalism charges in four Wisconsin counties and has been convicted of other charges in a fifth. He has been accused of setting fires using sophisticated chemicals at power substations and communications centers in Wisconsin.

Door County, Wis., District Attorney Tim Funnell says Konopka commits such acts because he is ``an anarchist'' who is ``disillusioned with the way society works.''
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