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Why Not Allow The Public To “See Something, Say Something” With More Educated Eyes & Mouths

J. D. Abolins:
Thanks for the videos and links. They are helpful.
One of the ways in which citizens can be of great help is their awareness within their set of skills, life situations, and activities.
For example, an agricultural supply outlet people have an idea of what are the normal types of customers who might purchase ammonium nitrate fertiliser. They are in a good position to sense if a customer is “off”, doesn’t seem to be a farmer, etc. (Real life example: Following the OKC bombing a news crew from a major city went to an ag supplier in an adjacent state to get some ammonium nitrate to show how easy it is obtain. The clerks noticed the out-of-state plates, their clothing was too delicate for farming, the customers were not familar with farming terminology, etc. They called it in to the auhorities. Spoiled the news story but provide a good illustration how citizens can discern suspicious *behaviours* from their areas of expertise.
Since the Times Square bombing attempt, I have been writing about the role of the citizen in homeland security and in particular the use (and potential) of “See Something, Say Something”-type campaigns. In the aftermath of the New York incident and the ‘Christmas Day bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab – both foiled with the help of average citizens — officials have lauded the public’s role in homeland security.
However, despite reports that the terror threat to the U.S. is increasing and experts extolling the importance of citizen awareness, there hasn’t yet been a subsequent effort to try to broaden or improve civilian involvement.

There are some training materials for citizens that are publicly available which have had limited release, but government officials are not publicizing them widely. It’s as if we’re only going halfway on citizen involvement even with the new emphasis on the public’s role and the rising threat. One of the resources is a video I recently posted produced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “What’s in Store: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Events,” aimed at helping employees spot suspicious activity. This video was made for the retail industry, but the “suspicious activity” examples shown include mall customers making observations, and so it would be useful for any citizen to see.

There is a major caveat in any expansion of the citizen role. It is crucial that in empowering the public to play a role in the nation’s homeland security that we do not overdue things. There is a balance between informed/engaged and paranoid/overaggressive. However, I think is important that if indeed security officials believe that average citizens are integral to the nation’s safety then they should further educate them so they can be the most useful. The initiatives listed above offer the kind of information and training that I think would be helpful, and I hope that officials will begin broadening their use to the citizenry.MORE


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