The horrific massacre by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik in San Bernardino was a rude awakening. The terrorists rented a house in Redlands and their neighbors noticed their suspicious behavior yet did not report it to authorities. You can never know when or where these events may occur, however they have been happening frequently throughout this year.
On November 13th, 2015 Paris fell victim to one of the worst acts of terrorism they have ever seen. It was also the day my new wife and I were visiting on our honeymoon. We were only there for the day after taking the train from London, and were going all over the city to see as many of the major tourist sites as we could fit into a 12 hour stay. Our train departed Paris Gare du Nord station at 9:13pm and 10 minutes away the first attack was reported at 9:20pm.
We were exceptionally fortunate that day to have left when we did, but being so close to such a terrible tragedy was a cold reminder of the world we live in; a world where you are welcome to travel and experience life, but must always be aware of your surroundings and prepared to act should a threat suddenly emerge. I would love to reflect on my honeymoon and only think about the good, but the tragedy that occurred will always linger as a reminder of how quickly everything in your world can change.
It is because of this experience, and the threat of others as the San Bernardino shooting, that I choose to remain vigilant rather than simply relaxing and enjoying the moment whenever I am outside the comfort of my home. While profiling a person based solely on race, culture, religion or physical attributes is not the answer, I do encourage anyone who values their safety to pay extra attention to their surroundings. The FBI and the TSA have spent years collecting data and creating systems they believe can improve the chances of minimizing threats.
First and foremost, to protect your rental and neighborhood from confirmed terrorists, take preventative measures by performing tenant screening with the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC). OFAC is a Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list that includes known terrorists, terrorist supporters and narcotics traffickers. However, if you believe someone currently residing in your community seems suspicious, consider using some of the FBI’s key characteristics to determine if your resident is a threat:
- Suspicious Questioning & Persons
If your neighborhood is near any key facilities (like military bases or government buildings) or if a lot of your residents are employed by key facilities, keep a lookout for any suspicious questions asked. Do you know the person asking or have you seen them around the neighborhood?
- Acquiring Supplies
Have you seen your resident in question carrying to their home, garage or car explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, access cards or identification cards? If you have, do you know if they’re stockpiling any of the above?
Have you noticed any abandoned vehicles or suspicious persons near your community?
- Change in Behavior
A resident’s behavior has significantly changed such as a withdrawal from social interaction and extreme viewpoints that the person did not have before.
While the TSA’s SPOT program has been controversial to say the least, the TSA’s checklist can help to further determine your suspicions. The SPOT program runs on a point system, where actions like “avoiding eye contact” and “excessive fidgeting” are worth a single point each, so you shouldn’t rely upon one or two of these factors alone. Additionally, do not approach someone you suspect based upon the FBI’s suspicious acts list. Use the SPOT program only when approached and in conjunction with the FBI list.
Signs listed on the TSA’s checklist include:
- Exaggerated yawning
- Excessive throat clearing
- Widely open staring eyes
- Wearing improper attire for the location – i.e. heavy clothing on a hot day
- Gazing down
- Exaggerated or repetitive grooming gestures
- Rubbing or wringing of hands.
After analyzing the person in question through these methods, if you’re still wary of your safety and the safety of others, please contact the FBI. You can easily do this online or via telephone or mail.
Even by staying aware of your surroundings and reporting whatever and whoever seems suspicious, the reality is that sometimes it’s not enough. Sometimes someone with no previous terrorist history or suspicion suddenly decides to gun down an office, a school, or a clinic, making it almost impossible to determine if these types of terrorists are a threat beforehand. In such situations, it’s vital that you learn what to do in an active shooter situation because who knows if you’ll be ten minutes lucky, or ten minutes too late.