Recent and evolving current events have fueled social discord and increased the need for an increased sense of situational awareness, particularly in densely populated cities and other high profile locations. Using your senses will help you to notice foreign objects and irregular activities. Unusual smells, sounds and visuals could alert you to a potential threat. This article will outline how to identify potentially suspicious people and situations along with when to report them. The actions you take can result in averting criminal or terrorist activity, possibly saving lives.
“If You See Something, Say Something™”
Situational awareness refers to the state of being actively aware of your environment and the things happening around you. The Department of Homeland Security highlights the impact of situational awareness with the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign starting in 2010. Additionally, at this time, the U.S. Department of Justice launched the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI).
“If you See Something, Say Something™” is a simple and effective program that reminds and encourages the public to report anything that looks out of place in their normal operating scope. While isolated incidents may seem minor in and of themselves, when reported to the proper law enforcement authorities, they may collectively create a pattern that is indicative of potential terrorism, crime or other threats.
Preventing acts of terrorism was the original intention of the program. However, it really can be considered an “all threats” approach. To date, the information reported has assisted the DHS, the FBI, and local law enforcement in deterring terrorist activities and other crimes.
Situational Awareness- What to Look For
Any person or scenario that seems out of place for your area, the time of day or the environment it occurs in can be an early indicator of criminal activity. Below are examples of activities that you may classify as suspicious.
- People behaving suspiciously, to include acting nervous or uneasy or wearing oversized clothing to conceal items.
- Individuals claiming to represent a utility company without a uniform or identification.
- Expressed threats on social media or other platforms.
- Unusual items or situations (vehicles parked in odd locations, packages unattended).
- Breached or attempted intrusion in unauthorized areas.
- Eliciting information, questioning beyond the mere curiosity of operations/security.
- Strange odors such as gas, chemicals, or fire.
- Unusual sounds such as screaming, gunshots, glass breaking, yelling, etc.
The above list is not all-inclusive, and you are encouraged to report ANY activity or individual that makes you feel uncomfortable. Early intervention can significantly reduce the likelihood of accidents, criminal activity, or acts of terrorism from occurring.
DHS encourages citizens to “trust their instincts” when seeing suspicious activities. When noticing anything suspicious, follow the instructions below:
- Notify local law enforcement or a person of authority immediately.
- Be prepared to provide the following information most often needed by the police:
- What happened?
- Is anyone injured?
- Direction of flight
- Description of persons (including clothing)
- Vehicle description and license number
- Move to a safe location away from the suspicious person or scenario.
We encourage all of our officers and clients to remain continuously aware of their surroundings and possible threats, particularly during times of heightened social tension and planned large-scale events. In our officer training courses, the items mentioned above are taught and discussed often.
Please refer to the DHS website for valuable information and marketing tools that can help spread the word about the “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign.