Tuesday, May 3, 2011

See something, say something

It was somewhat prescient that at last month’s Metro Chiefs and Sheriffs Association meeting, our guest speaker was Bob Kolenda, the director of the Kansas City Regional Terrorism Early Warning Inter-Agency Watch Center. Our Homeland Security Unit as well as many other area local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participate in this agency to monitor trends and assess threats that could result in terrorist attacks.

Although our Homeland Security Unit has reported there are no specific threats at this time, given the recent focus on the death of the world’s most notorious terrorist, it seems a good time to remind the public of the important role you play in detecting and reporting potential terrorist activity. Last year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano launched the “See Something, Say Something” campaign. This initiative encourages regular citizens to keep an eye out for suspicious behaviors and to report them to law enforcement. Before any of the recent events, Director Kolenda reminded local police chiefs last month of the importance of this program, pointing out that the best resources law enforcement has for detecting potential terrorist behavior is you.

Terrorist experts recognize eight signs of terrorism. Terrorist operations usually begin with extensive planning, and these eight things are what to look out for. It is important to note that you should not report anything based on race, gender or religion – only suspicious behavior. Keep in mind domestic terrorism (like the Oklahoma City bombing) is just as real a threat as terrorists from overseas. The video at our Kansas City Terrorism Early Warming Group’s web site (it was produced by the Colorado Information Analysis Center) does a good job explaining the below eight signs of terrorism:

1.) Surveillance and Photography – Demonstrating an unusual interest in facilities, buildings or infrastructure that a reasonable person would consider suspicious. Examples include using binoculars, taking notes and attempting to measure distances. Taking pictures or video of infrequently used access points, security personnel carrying out their duties or security-related equipment.
2.) Elicitation – Questioning individuals at a level beyond mere curiosity about particular facets of a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures, etc.
3.) Testing security – Challenging security installations, personnel, systems, and cyber security.
4.) Funding – Making unusually large transactions with cash or gift cards; making large donations to a charity you’ve never heard of.
5.) Acquiring supplies – Acquiring unusual amounts of precursor materials like cell phones, pagers, fuel, timers and weapons
6.) Impersonation – Pretending to be a law enforcement, government or security official or company employee to gain more information or access.
7.) Rehearsal – Putting operatives in position, monitoring police radios, measuring emergency response times.
8.) Deployment – Arranging assets, positioning players, carrying out an attack. Call 911 immediately if you witness this.

You can report any of these things to the Kansas City Terrorism Early Warning Center, which has partnered with the TIPS Hotline, at 816-474-TIPS; KCPD’s Homeland Security Unit at 816-889-6130; your local law enforcement agency; or the Kansas City FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force at 816-512-8200. If you sense an impending emergency, call 911. You can even report suspicious activity online.

Many people think terrorism doesn’t happen in places like Kansas City, but check out these steadily rising statistics from our Homeland Security Unit about local investigations into reasonably suspicious terrorist activities:

And just last year, KCPD and the Heart of America Joint Terrorism Task Force investigated Khalid Ouazzani, a Kansas City resident who later pleaded guilty in federal court to supporting the terrorist group Al-Qaida.

In summation, we need your eyes and ears to keep Kansas City and America a safe place to live, work and play. If you see something, say something.

Send comments to kcpdchiefblog@kcpd.org.