As the horrific events of September 11, 2001 recede into the past it is easy to become complacent about the threat of terrorism. Yet experts agree that the threat remains very real. While most would acknowledge that our community is probably low on the list of possible targets for a major terrorist attack, the Greater Los Angeles area could well be a prime target for such an outrage. Furthermore since terrorist attacks often take a considerable amount of planning, would-be terrorists could well hang out in quiet communities such as Lomita. Hence vigilance is the keyword.
As with other aspects of the CERT program it is clear that the professional services, in this case law enforcement, will not be able to handle all contingencies and it is up to the community to provide support in the anti-terrorism struggle.
"No one knows the community better than the community itself"
In an effort to include the community in this aspect of law enforcement, New York City Police Department introduced its "Shield" program - "Counter Terrorism through Information Sharing", described here. Based on this program a number of liaison officers have been trained to, in turn, train the community. This is known as the "Terrorism Awareness" Community Outreach Program. The goal countrywide is to train 20,000 people a year to be "the eyes and ears of law enforcement". As of the Spring of 2009 community training courses are beginning to be held in the South Bay area.
As more information about the program becomes available we will provide more details. For the time being the following sections give a few pointers of what community members can do to aid the authorities. Watch the News & Events page for information on training courses available to Lomita residents.
The Seven Signs of Terrorism
The first sign is someone trying to monitor or record
activities. If terrorists are targeting a specific area
they will most likely be observed in that area during
the planning phase of the operation. Terrorists will
attempt to determine the strengths, weaknesses,
and number of personnel that may respond to an
incident. Routes to and from the target are usually
established during the
surveillance phase. It is
important to note suspicious
actions such as someone
using cameras (still or
video), drawing diagrams or
annotating on maps, using
vision-enhancing devices, and
being in possession of floor plans or
blueprints of places such as hightech
firms, financial institutions, or
government/military facilities. Any of these
surveillance type acts MAY be an indicator that
something is not right and should be reported
immediately. Nothing is too insignificant.
2. Elicitation/ Seeking Information
The second sign is the attempt to gain information
through inquiries. This includes anyone
attempting to gain information about a place,
person or operation. Elicitation attempts can
be made by mail, fax, telephone, or in person.
Examples would be someone inquiring about a
critical infrastructure like a power plant, water
reservoir or a maritime port. Terrorists may
attempt to research bridge and tunnel usage, make
unusual inquiries concerning shipments, look into
how a facility such as a hospital operates, attempt to obtain building plans or blueprints or make repeated requests to tour government or other facilities. They may
also attempt to place “key” people in sensitive work
locations to gain intelligence.
3. Tests of Security
Tests of security or probing are techniques terrorists
would use to attempt to gather data. These are usually
conducted by driving past or even penetrating the target,
moving into sensitive areas, and observing security or
law enforcement response. Specific areas of interest to
terrorists would include how long it takes security or law
enforcement to respond to an incident, number of
responding personnel, or the routes taken to a specific
location. Terrorists may also try to penetrate physical
security barriers or test the response procedures in
order to assess strengths and weaknesses. Vehicles
may be parked for unusually long periods of time,
sometimes in no parking areas, as a test of security.
4. Acquiring Supplies
This may be a case where
someone is purchasing or
stealing explosives, weapons
or ammunition. It could be the
unusual purchasing or storing
of fertilizer or harmful
chemicals. Terrorists would
also find it useful to acquire
law enforcement equipment and identification, military
uniforms and decals, as well as flight passes, badges
or even flight manuals. Terrorists often use false or
stolen identification documents including passports
and driver licenses. They may try to
produce counterfeit identification by
photocopying. Any of these items would make it
easier to gain entrance to secured or usually
prohibited areas. Anyone wearing a uniform
should have the proper identification on them.
5. Suspicious People Who Do Not Belong
Another pre-incident indicator is observing suspicious
people who just don’t belong. This includes suspicious
border crossings, stowaways aboard a ship or people
jumping ship in a port. It could be someone in a
workplace, building, neighborhood or business
establishment who does not fit in because of their
demeanor or unusual questions he/she is asking, or
statements they make or because their clothing does not blend with the surrounding environment. This does not mean we should
profile individuals, but it does mean we should profile
6. Dry Run/Trial Run
Another sign to watch is for “dry runs.” Before the
execution of the final operation or plan, a practice
session will be run to work out the flaws and
unanticipated problems. This is especially true when
planning a kidnapping but it can also pertain to
bombings. A dry run may be the heart of the planning
stage of a terrorist act. If you find someone monitoring a
police radio frequency and recording emergency
response times, you may be observing a dry run.
Multiple dry runs may be conducted at or near the
target to gain intelligence.
7. Deploying Assets/Getting Into Position
The seventh and final sign to look for is someone
deploying assets or getting into position. This is your
last chance to alert authorities before the terrorist act
occurs. It is also important to remember that
pre-incident indicators may come months or even years
apart. Therefore, it is extremely important to document
every fragment of information, no matter how
insignificant it may appear, and forward this information
to the authorities.
Videos going over these points in more detail can be found here , here, and here.
Early Warning Signs
- Sweating, nervousness, fixed stare
- Unusual concern over secrecy
- No obvious signs of employment, but has money
- Driving too slow, too fast, or circling
- Frequent address changes or several P.O boxes
- Groups of people living together with no visible means of support
- Living locally but renting vehicles
- Renting under a false name
- Staying at multiple hotels/motels and paying in cash
- Using hotel lobby/public phone instead of room phone
- Unusual or suspicious items left behind in a hotel room
- Shoplifting/petty theft (cigarettes, baby formula)
- Identity theft, check/bank/mail/dredit card fraud
- Money laundering
- Distributing conterfeit money
- Stealing/selling weapons
- Producing/selling counterfeit designer clothes/trademarked goods/DVDs
- Pre-paid, disposable cell phones or pre-paid calling cards
- Training manuals (flight, military, scuba, extremist)
- Unauthorized uniforms (airport, postal, police, military, etc.)
- Badges, access cards, or identification for key buildings
- Raadios, scanners
- IDs with more than one name
- Passport with changed numbers, different photos, or pages removed
- Fake, changed, or stolen documents such as driver's licenses, vehicle registrations, and ID cards (all types)
- Photos/diagrams/notes of potential targets
- Blueprints of important buildings
- Two-way communication devices
- Postcards of symbolic targets
- Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) device
- Night vision/thermal devices
- Binoculars, telephoto lens, etc.
- Electronic surveillance equipment
- Several sets of clothing
- Sketching materials (paper, pencils)
- Testing security at potential targets
- Discreet use of cameras, video recorders, or note taking at non-tourist type locations
- Asking unusual questions
- Acting as panhandlers, shoe shiners, food vendors, etc. while observing targets
The Five "W"'s
What to Remember When Reporting Suspicious Activity:
- What is happening?
- Who is doing it?
- Where is it taking place?
- When did you observe it?
- Why are you suspicious?
Although it is widely perceived that the terrorist threat comes from people of middle eastern origin, this preconception is counter productive. It is important to focus on the behavior and not the race or religion of anyone you may suspect of terrorist activity. On the other hand it is also important not to let political correctness prevent you from reporting what you honestly believe to be suspicious behavior.
Accounts of witnesses to crimes and accidents have proved to be notoriously unreliable. The same is likely to be true in reporting suspect terrorist activity. To help focus on the important aspects of a potentially suspicious incident we have included an Incident Report Form which itemizes the important details to try to remember and note as soon as possible.
Who to Report To
Many communities are assigning a "Terrorism Liaison Officer" who is the focal point for potential terrorist activity. In the case of Lomita please contact 911 if you see activity which is of a truly suspicious nature.