The First Line of Defense: Profiling Behavior & Situations

Three days after the botched terror attacks in the UK a newspaper banner reads:  "Londoners return to business as usual." Regrettably, that often means minding one's own business. It is a perfidious dream to believe there is an anti-terrorism vaccine or other panacea. However, there is a first line of defense against terrorist attacks; it is called prevention and it involves public awareness, alertness, suspicion, and profiling.

Profiling is seen as a dirty word in the company of the politically correct, but in real life, it is an efficient and indispensable tool to assess a possible terrorist situation.

Ocular Vigilance

Terrorists regularly rely on public complacency. The public has to realize that they have a responsibility for their own safety; they can't just be led to believe they can leave it to the various law enforcement authorities and security agencies, whose principal capabilities appear to be to react after an attack. Terrorist plots don't just occur in a vacuum, there is a lot of preliminary activity and often many people are involved.

During the planning stages reconnaissance of the target is of prime importance to the terrorist.  It is also a vulnerable phase when a vigilant, curious local residence can catch them out. Local people going about their "business as usual" should keep a trained eye out for anything out of the ordinary in their daily rounds. It could be a person taking photographs or making notes of an un-picturesque site, a public building of no consequence to a tourist, or someone taking an exceptional interest in a monument, strategic structure, or monitoring a site, such as an airport, military base or government building, even a nightclub. If the scene appears suspicious to a passerby, a mental note should be made of the time, date and depiction of the person involved. The more courageous could confront the person and innocently and strike up a conversation to assess them. The really audacious could try taking a photo of the subject with a cell phone or a camera and watching their reaction can be a surefire way of evaluating the situation. If he or she appears uneasy and tense, the incident should be reported to the police. This is known as behavior profiling.

In everyone's community there is a natural order going on around us on a daily basis, a sequence of events that seems routine, that we hardly notice, experienced almost in our unconscious state. We are only aware of it when something out of the ordinary happens. It is those moments that jar the unconscious that must be registered and remembered. It could be someone making notes on a map, a group on strangers speaking a foreign language, huddled in a local café, or someone driving slowly down a street several times. An observant local citizen should remark upon people who just don't seem to belong somewhere, whose demeanor doesn't quite fit the situation. This is known as situation profiling.

Abnormal late night visits to a house or an apartment should trigger suspicion. Homes shuttered during the day; lookouts in windows or in a parked car outside should be mentally noted. People apparently not working during the day and staying up long hours at night should raise flags. People should be on the lookout for cars going and coming at odd hours of the day and night in their neighborhood. And finally, suspicious movements or whereabouts of cars and vans should be taken into account. Further situation profiling.

Auditory Vigilance

The public should keep their ears open for key words spoken in a conversation, words like "bomb", "fuse", and "anthrax".  They should take note of people speaking a language that is out of the ordinary in their community. They should be on the look out for unusual behavior amongst a group talking. Are they huddled close together talking in undertones? When approached do they stop their conversation abruptly? Another example of behavior profiling.
Olfactory Vigilance

Unusual odors like petroleum, acetone or acidic smells emanating from a residence or an apartment should raise suspicion. One more example of situation profiling.

Deterrence

Nobody likes to be wrong or make a fool of themselves. This natural response makes people reluctant to report something suspicious. Better safe than sorry; one must not worry about being wrong, better to ere than to ignore. The police need the leads and tips to begin an investigation. We must profile unusual and suspicious behavior and situations if we are ever going to make society relatively safe from terrorist attacks. But then again, it can be argued that after last weeks bumbling bombings by medical doctors, almost everybody is a possible subject. We live in disquieting times where we have to adapt faster than ever to keep pace with the evil threatening us, all the while keeping in mind that combating complacency is an essential component in combating terrorism.
Three days after the botched terror attacks in the UK a newspaper banner reads:  "Londoners return to business as usual." Regrettably, that often means minding one's own business. It is a perfidious dream to believe there is an anti-terrorism vaccine or other panacea. However, there is a first line of defense against terrorist attacks; it is called prevention and it involves public awareness, alertness, suspicion, and profiling.

Profiling is seen as a dirty word in the company of the politically correct, but in real life, it is an efficient and indispensable tool to assess a possible terrorist situation.

Ocular Vigilance

Terrorists regularly rely on public complacency. The public has to realize that they have a responsibility for their own safety; they can't just be led to believe they can leave it to the various law enforcement authorities and security agencies, whose principal capabilities appear to be to react after an attack. Terrorist plots don't just occur in a vacuum, there is a lot of preliminary activity and often many people are involved.

During the planning stages reconnaissance of the target is of prime importance to the terrorist.  It is also a vulnerable phase when a vigilant, curious local residence can catch them out. Local people going about their "business as usual" should keep a trained eye out for anything out of the ordinary in their daily rounds. It could be a person taking photographs or making notes of an un-picturesque site, a public building of no consequence to a tourist, or someone taking an exceptional interest in a monument, strategic structure, or monitoring a site, such as an airport, military base or government building, even a nightclub. If the scene appears suspicious to a passerby, a mental note should be made of the time, date and depiction of the person involved. The more courageous could confront the person and innocently and strike up a conversation to assess them. The really audacious could try taking a photo of the subject with a cell phone or a camera and watching their reaction can be a surefire way of evaluating the situation. If he or she appears uneasy and tense, the incident should be reported to the police. This is known as behavior profiling.

In everyone's community there is a natural order going on around us on a daily basis, a sequence of events that seems routine, that we hardly notice, experienced almost in our unconscious state. We are only aware of it when something out of the ordinary happens. It is those moments that jar the unconscious that must be registered and remembered. It could be someone making notes on a map, a group on strangers speaking a foreign language, huddled in a local café, or someone driving slowly down a street several times. An observant local citizen should remark upon people who just don't seem to belong somewhere, whose demeanor doesn't quite fit the situation. This is known as situation profiling.

Abnormal late night visits to a house or an apartment should trigger suspicion. Homes shuttered during the day; lookouts in windows or in a parked car outside should be mentally noted. People apparently not working during the day and staying up long hours at night should raise flags. People should be on the lookout for cars going and coming at odd hours of the day and night in their neighborhood. And finally, suspicious movements or whereabouts of cars and vans should be taken into account. Further situation profiling.

Auditory Vigilance

The public should keep their ears open for key words spoken in a conversation, words like "bomb", "fuse", and "anthrax".  They should take note of people speaking a language that is out of the ordinary in their community. They should be on the look out for unusual behavior amongst a group talking. Are they huddled close together talking in undertones? When approached do they stop their conversation abruptly? Another example of behavior profiling.
Olfactory Vigilance

Unusual odors like petroleum, acetone or acidic smells emanating from a residence or an apartment should raise suspicion. One more example of situation profiling.

Deterrence

Nobody likes to be wrong or make a fool of themselves. This natural response makes people reluctant to report something suspicious. Better safe than sorry; one must not worry about being wrong, better to ere than to ignore. The police need the leads and tips to begin an investigation. We must profile unusual and suspicious behavior and situations if we are ever going to make society relatively safe from terrorist attacks. But then again, it can be argued that after last weeks bumbling bombings by medical doctors, almost everybody is a possible subject. We live in disquieting times where we have to adapt faster than ever to keep pace with the evil threatening us, all the while keeping in mind that combating complacency is an essential component in combating terrorism.