Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citizens Can Be a First Line of Defense

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Citizens Can Be a First Line of Defense

Article excerpt

On this anniversary of the most devastating terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it is a time to remember all the acts of bravery that occurred.

Of course this includes the first responders but also citizens who acted without regard to their safety.

The passengers who helped prevent United Airlines Flight 93 from crashing into a building, perhaps in Washington, D.C., have received the most acclaim. And the lessons from that event should continue to resonate.

But we can capitalize on those lessons from Sept. 11, 2001, by learning how to be watchdogs for public safety.

By keeping aware of suspicious behavior, any of us can help prevent another attack.

For instance, in December 2001, Richard Reid was stopped by airplane passengers from lighting a shoe bomb.

In 2008, a plot at Fort Dix was prevented because a store clerk discovered a video file of a group firing weapons and calling for jihad.

On Christmas Day 2009, a 23-year-old Nigerian student was apprehended by passengers on a flight bound for Detroit when he attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear.

In Times Square in 2010, bystanders notified police when they noticed suspicious behavior by a man who was trying to detonate a bomb.

So what qualifies as suspicious behavior? Not looks. Terrorists come in all shades. Remember that the bombers in Oklahoma City and Atlanta were white. If authorities concentrate on race or ethnicity, terrorist groups can easily find people to evade detection.

In fact, there are good relations between mainstream Muslims in the U.S. and the FBI and other law enforcement agencies,

The key is recognizing suspicious behavior. Here are a few examples culled from Homeland Security and New York Transit Authority websites. Both promote a program titled "See Something, Say Something."

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

- Report unattended backpacks or packages left in a public place.

- Report unusual smells. A grandmother smelled bad odors from an apartment and noticed an empty apartment was being visited by various people. Police discovered a poison gas operation.

- Report when someone is trying to break into a restricted area.

- Pay attention to vehicles left in No Parking zones in front of important buildings. …

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