While most individuals may assume they could never play a role in preventing or stopping potential acts of terrorism, quite the opposite may be true. There are several means by which any common person may play a vital role in preventing terrorism and lead government and law enforcement officials to apprehend suspected terrorists.
Learn How to Spot a Potential Terrorist
The Columbus Ohio Police Department lists "
The Seven Signs of Terrorism." Each sign represents behaviors or actions that one or more individuals may exhibit when attempting to plan or carry out an act of terrorism. The list may not be all-inclusive, nor does the behavior similar to these seven signs guarantee that an individual is attempting to plan or commit acts of terrorism.
The signs are:
1. Surveillance: Someone recording or monitoring activities. This may include using cameras, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, using binoculars or image-enhancing devices.
2. Elicitation: people who attempt to gain information about military operations, capabilities or people. These elicitations may be made by telephone, mail, fax, or in person.
3. Tests of Security: Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches, penetrate physical security barriers or procedures to assess strengths and weaknesses.
4. Acquiring Supplies: Making purchases or stealing explosives, weapons or ammunition. Acquiring military uniforms, flight manuals, decals, badges, passes or the attempt to manufacture such items.
5. Suspicious Persons Out of Place: People who do not seem to belong in a particular workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or anywhere else. This includes stowaways on ships and suspicious border crossings.
6. Dry Run/Trial Run: Putting people into position and moving them around, but without actually committing any terrorist act. This is especially true of kidnappings and bombings. This could also include mapping routes and determining timing of traffic flow and lights.
7. Deploying Assets: People and supplies getting into position before committing the terrorist act. This is the last opportunity a person will have to alert authorities before the act occurs.
Considerations of the Seven Signs
Observing someone committing one of The Seven Signs of Terrorism does not mean that one or more people engaging in the activity is absolutely planning a terrorist act. While it is crucial to be alert to all of these signs, it is also imperative to use common sense. For instance, someone with binoculars could have received them as a gift or perhaps the individual is a bird watcher. A student, military buff or collector may not know the implications of requesting certain military information, wanting it only for a student paper or perhaps to add to a military collection. An unknown person in a neighborhood could simply have elected to take a different route for a daily walk or jog. Perhaps the person does not live in the neighborhood but has come to look at a house or apartment for rent or sale. It is always possible that a group of people in a mall are part of an upcoming event and are simply practicing. Of course, if people seem to move around in a suspicious manner in a bank, public event, school, airport or other transportation facility, authorities should be notified immediately. It is much better to be mistaken than to have seen something and not said something. When people are at an event and dressed inappropriately, such as wearing a heavy overcoat in summer or carrying backpacks at an event where a backpack seems out of place, extreme caution should be used. Notify authorities immediately.
How to Report Potential Acts of Terrorism
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security informs citizens of the proper way to report any suspicious activity or person that may be indicative of potential terrorism. Call law enforcement or get help from a police officer or security officer at the event you are attending. Report the activity by giving as much detailed information as possible. State the date, time and location of the activity or suspicious person. Give a description of any vehicles that the suspect may be using. Give a brief description of the activity. If reporting a suspicious person, give as accurate description as possible, noting any physical identifiers such as marks, scars, tattoos. Also report any information pertaining to where the suspicious person may have gone.
The DHS points out that you can report the activity or suspicious person anonymously. Never follow a suspect or approach any packages, backpacks or containers a person may have left behind. While the average citizen may not be trained or have authority to detain suspected terrorists, every person can play a crucial role in thwarting potential terrorist activities. As the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says, "No matter where you live in the world: Your assistance is needed in preventing terrorist acts."