What is terrorism?

Terrorism is the use of force or violence against persons or property for the purpose of intimidation, coercion, or ransom. Terrorists often use violence and threats to create fear among the public, to try to convince people that their government is powerless to prevent acts of terrorism, and to get immediate publicity for their causes.

The goals of terrorism are usually political, social, or religious in nature. Terrorists often truly believe they are pursuing justifiable and righteous goals.

Terrorists may be seeking:

  • To influence policy decisions
  • Their own homeland or some type of independence
  • Downfall of an existing government seen as unresponsive, authoritarian, corrupt or immoral
  • Exemption from various laws or rules

Terrorism might target:

  • Government policies
  • One or more local communities
  • A business or businesses
  • One or more racial or ethnic groups
  • Members of any specialty group

How to spot suspicious behavior

Watch for the 6 signs of terrorism

1. Suspicious packages/concealed IEDs
Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the main terrorist threat to public places. IEDs are generally small and easily transportable. Watch for bags and packages left unattended.

2. Surveillance
During the planning phase, a terrorist will often conduct surveillance on a possible target.

  • Watch for individuals taking photos or videotaping entrances and exits of places that are not normally tourist attractions.
  • Watch for people trying to conceal their actions.
  • Watch for individuals using binoculars or drawing diagrams.

3. Unusual supplies
Watch for individuals purchasing large amounts of chemicals, fertilizers or other suspicious items such as, wire, batteries, altered electronics, chemicals or various unidentifiable substances.

4. Unseasonable/bulky clothing
Watch for people who seem to be wearing unusually thick or bulky clothing — such apparel could indicate concealed explosives or weapons. Especially if the clothing is inappropriate for the current season.

5. Unauthorized entrance into restricted areas
Watch for strangers loitering near — or entering — exits or "employees only" areas warrant notifying management and/or police.

6. Unauthorized or empty vehicles
Watch for vehicles that appear to have been left vacant for long periods, or vehicles parked in prohibited areas.

How to report suspicious activity

Know the 5 Ws when calling 9-1-1

  1. Who did I observe?
  2. What specifically did I see?
  3. Where did I observe the suspicious behavior?
  4. When did I observe the suspicious behavior?
  5. Why do I think the behavior is suspicious?

In the event you DO become aware of suspicious activity

  • Do not take direct action
  • Do not confront the individual
  • Do not reveal your suspicions
  • Do record as many details as possible
  • Do notify the appropriate authorities as soon as possible – call 9-1-1