Being Aware and Vigilant Can Save Lives

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Mackenzie InstituteTHUNDER BAY – The tenth anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks have many people concerned that it is possible that there could be more attacks by terrorists seeking to celebrate that terrible day. Democratic governments around the world have, over the past ten years, continually sought that citizens be vigilant. It is also key within media outlets not to raise public concerns to a level not in keeping with perceived threats.

With the death of Osama bin laden at the hands of United States Seals, there are concerns of retaliatory attacks. So the often repeated message of vigilance remains important today.

But what exactly are people being asked to do to be vigilant? John Thompson, the President of the Mackenzie Institute, a Canadian based think tank says “Osama bin Laden has directly instructed Jihadists to attack ten nations: The United States, Great Britain, Australia, Spain, Canada and Italy, as well as Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. So far al Qaeda has delivered successful attacks against all but Canada, Italy and Jordan.”

Helping law enforcement, by becoming extra sets of eyes and ears, we can help make our communities safer from terrorists. It must be said however that your role, as eyes and ears, is that of an observer. Please do not take action on your own, but remember, if you are right in your suspicions, then you are dealing with potentially very dangerous people. Leave law enforcement to the police.

Now, what can you do to become better aware of people, or situations, which should be reported to police? Becoming a first line of community defence against terrorism requires an alert and aware citizenry. At work, or in your community, the MacKenzie Institute states that any of the following events that you see should trigger your suspicions:

  • “The theft or loss of badges, credentials, ID cards, uniforms, or the discovery of fake credentials. Also the theft or government, military or emergency vehicles should make you vigilant.”
  • Individuals photographing, sketching or maintaining surveillance of buildings and facilities. This should include individuals, and particularly multiple persons.”
  • Trespassing near key facilities or in supposedly secure areas, particularly by multiple persons should set off your ‘vigilance alarm'”.
  • Thompson also advises that you be aware of “the presence of uncommon or abandoned vehicles, packages, or containers.”
  • Also, keep an eye out for people who are “searching trash containers or placing unusual items in them — particularly around transit systems, or the lobbies of crowded buildings.
  • The thefts of sensitive military or government property such as computers can be an indication of terrorist activities. As well, purchases at Government surplus sales of military, police, fire or paramedic vehicles and equipment, particularly if there are indications of an intention to refurbish them to working condition.
  • The attempted purchase or theft of large numbers of weapons (including knives).
  • The attempted purchase of supplies necessary for the manufacture of explosive devices — this includes an unusual or frequent purchase of fertilizer or cleaning supplies.
  • An increase in cyber attacks/probes.
  • An increase in the number of threats or false fire alarms to facilities that require evacuation.
  • Theft of government or private agency vehicles, vehicle passes, uniforms, or copies of standard operating procedures.
  • Unknown workers trying to gain access to facilities for repairs, installation of equipment, etc.
  • E-mails that request information regarding details of your facility, personnel, or standard operating procedures.
  • Unusual patterns of seemingly unimportant activity: Examples might include increased foot traffic into a little used access tunnel underneath an office tower, or a fisherman who keeps returning to a point close to a nuclear power plant.
  • Unknown persons or occupied vehicles loitering in vicinity of a potential target for an extended period of time.”

You should also be aware, and vigilant, for other unusual activities including:

  • A large group of men (particularly ‘Middle Eastern’ looking men — forget the PC tripe about the purported evils of racial profiling) who occupy a house, apartment, or motel rooms with no apparent purpose; and who have no apparent patterns of departure/arrival that are consistent with commuting to work or school.
  • If there is a smell of chemicals (particularly like ammonia or acetone) coming from the above site, call it in immediately! They may be cooking up explosives.
  • A similar group that is interested in renting (especially for cash) office space or an apartment, yet seem to perform no apparent function with it.
  • People who are in possession of large amounts of cash for no apparent reason.
  • People who attempt to purchase or lease vehicles or boats with cash, and who seem evasive about the paperwork.”
  • Regarding suicide attackers, in a January 2004 handout to Law Enforcement Agencies, the US Department of Homeland Security advised readers to look out for certain indicators. These included:
  • A shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face.
  • May smell of herbal or flower water, as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves and clothing to prepare for Paradise.
  • Suspects have been seen praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs.
  • Additionally, bulky clothing, which may be inappropriate for the weather and circumstances, can conceal a vest bomb (though many have used backpacks instead of vest bombs, particularly in the summer).
  • Moreover, male suicide bombers have often worn multiple sets of underwear (as many as ten in some cases) and a protective cup over their genitalia to protect these organs in anticipation of the 72 Virgins they believe will be accorded a “Martyr” in the afterlife, an odd fit to the pants may be another indicator.”

So now you know some of what you should be paying attention to. So now, what do you do if you find someone or something that set off your ‘vigilance alarm’?

First, do not hesitate to contact your local police. Remember, you are on the front lines of a possible attack, you have to be both vigilant, and ready to take action reporting what you have seen, the police can’t be everywhere. You should make sure that you are clear in any reports that you make to police. Take notes, and “share your suspicions but emphasize the reasons why they arose in the first place. Record your observations as quickly as possible, while your impressions are still fresh.”

It is worth repeating, that you should leave the police work to the police. Once you have made your suspicions known, your role is complete, unless the authorities contact you. You are not trained as a law enforcement officer, and you are not a vigilante either. You must step back, you might make any possible terrorists suspicious of you. You could tip them off that they have been observed. Let local law enforcement do the job that they are trained for.

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