Community Voices

‘See something, say something’ takes on new urgency

Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center and flames and debris explode from the second tower, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
Smoke billows from one of the towers of the World Trade Center and flames and debris explode from the second tower, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001. AP file

Thank you Miami-Dade Police Homeland Security for providing this information:

The attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, were the most devastating acts of terrorism on American soil, but they were not the first.

The towers had been attacked before, on Feb. 26, 1993, claiming six lives.

Two years later, on April 19, 1995, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, killing 168 people, including children.

Then on July 27, 1996, during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, an explosion killed two people.

There was Ted Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” whose arrest in 1996 ended a nearly 18-year spate of sporadic terrorist acts against American targets.

In October 2002, two snipers terrorized Maryland and Washington, D.C., killing 10 people and wounding several others.

News media reporting on these attacks have legitimately focused on the loss of life and damage to our sense of security. What has been under-reported, however, is the role ordinary people can play in preventing attacks.

Anyone who is a consistent consumer of media reporting can name the perpetrators of these crimes.

How many can name the two street vendors whose keen observation and prompt action foiled the attempted car bombing in Times Square, New York, on May 1, 2010?

How many know the names Mohammad Malik or Robert Abell? Both men, in different circumstances, became suspicious about Omar Mateen. Both alerted the FBI. Mateen would subsequently carry out the most devastating mass shooting in American criminal history — 49 victims dead — last month at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando.

This attack does not in any way lessen the importance of citizen involvement in alerting law enforcement personnel when they observe suspicious activity. Indeed, “see something, say something” is more important than ever. An alert and engaged community is a critical component in crime prevention and detection.

The Miami-Dade Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau has developed guidelines to help citizens become more sensitive to unusual and suspicious activity. For example, the Bureau warns that “Terrorists need supplies to carry out their attacks.” Unusual purchases, deliveries or thefts of explosives, weapons, propane bottles or toxic chemicals, should be reported to law enforcement.

Unusual requests for information (about your company’s security system, for example) or unusual interest in symbolic targets (e.g. surveillance at the local courthouse) should be a cause for heightened concern.

The bureau urges citizens to be as detailed and as accurate as possible in noting suspicious activity.

At the same time, they warn that the people who mean us ill do not come from any one particular race, ethnic group or religious affiliation. The men who perpetrated the attacks on the World Trade Center were Muslim. The Unabomber was white. The D.C. snipers were both black.

A copy of these guidelines can be downloaded at www.dhs.gov

Miami-Dade Police, by hosting and participating in a large number of community outreach events, through the use of social media and by building relationships with personnel in traditional print and electronic media, is diligently deepening its efforts to engage the community in crime prevention and detection.

We at Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade County can attest to these efforts.

To report suspicious activity, call the police department’s Homeland Security 24-hour Citizen Tip Line at 866-582-5378.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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