Tuesday, May 11, 2010
If You See Something, Say Something But Then What?
By GARY MOSKOWITZ
Paltalk News Network Homeland Security Correspondent
NEW YORK - Here in New York City, people are implored by the police to report suspicious activities that could be indicators of act of terrorism. A simple slogan is employed to get the message across: If you see something say something.
Officials say, once you do that, you've done your job and it's time for the professionals to take over. But what if they don't?
This is not a hypothetical question. It actually happens. And when it does, the slogan becomes just that - a slogan - and nothing more.
I have personally been involved in several incidents in which I followed the advice - and - to my knowledge - in both cases, no one showed up.
The first case involved a man who looked like he was from Middle Eastern background videotaping the inside of a subway train and the platform. You can't do anything more suspicious than that.
I called 911 and reported the incident - and no one ever came.
The other incident had nothing to do with terrorism. But it did have to do with a crime.
I spotted a man stealing a woman's purse. I'm a former NYPD officer, and my training kicked in automatically. I chased the man down, subdued him, and called 911. Then I waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, after it became clear that police were not going to respond to my call, I had to let the guy go.
The woman was happy to get her purse back intact. But, as in the first case, I saw something. I said something. But then the professionals did nothing.
This is not to say police aren't doing their jobs. But there are too many cops on desk duties. We need more police officers on the streets. Police officers who are willing to respond.
By the way, although they are not detectives, uniformed police officers should be trained - and directed - to investigate.
For one thing, procedure should include attempts to contact the person reporting the crime. All too often, by the time a radio car arrives on the scene, it appears that there is no crime in progress. If the officers don't talk to the person who called, it goes as an unfounded call.
Some precinct commanders actually favor this outcome. Because if the cops don't find something when you see something and then say something then the crime stats in their precincts stay low. And they get credit for keeping the neighborhood safe.
If city's like New York are really serious about enlisting the help of citizens in spotting potential terrorist acts, they should create counter terrorism academies for civilians. There people who are interested in helping would be trained on how to properly identify suspicious activity and report it in order to get maximum efficiency from the police.