Years after the horrendous events of Sept 11, we have received numerous and harsh reminders that malicious terrorists are still enormously active in trying to disrupt democracies worldwide. Recently, for example, over 50 innocent London commuters were slaughtered by a series of four cowardly suicide attacks.

Those of us in the security and law enforcement fields have a crucial duty to try to prevent, or at least mitigate, any potential acts of terrorism.

Some of the tools we have at our disposal include our specialized training and real-life experiences that may help us determine whether or not a person, item or activity is suspicious.

Here are, according to the Pennsylvania Homeland Security Web site, possible indicators of suspicious activities, items and persons as they relate to terrorism.

Checklist for Suspicious Persons

  • An unidentified individual observed loitering near a facility or in the lobby of a facility for an extended period of time.

    ? An unidentified individual observed wandering throughout a facility.

    ? An unidentified individual dressed in oversized or inappropriate clothing (e.g. a long heavy coat in warm weather) that appears to be concealing something.

  • An unidentified individual entering a facility carrying an oversized backpack or a large suitcase.

  • An individual in a facility with no visible company issued identification.

  • An individual who, when challenged by a supervisor or an employee, does not respond or does not provide a reasonable explanation for his/her actions.

  • An unidentified individual asking specific questions about your facility (e.g. security related matters, etc.).

  • An unidentified individual asking questions about key agency personnel (e.g., their normal arrival or departure times, their vehicle, location of their parking space, etc.).

  • An unidentified individual trying to deliver a package or other item to an office or to a specific person.

  • An unidentified individual observed photographing, videotaping and/or sketching the exterior or interior of any state facility.

  • An individual without proper identification entering your facility claiming to be a contractor, law enforcement officer, reporter or a service technician.

Checklist for Suspicious Activity

  • Two or more unidentified individuals observed loitering near a facility or in the lobby of a facility.

  • Individuals or groups who are uncooperative if challenged by a representative of that company/ security or an employee.

  • Individuals or groups who appear at your facility without prior notification or clearance and claim to be contractors or service technicians.

  • Unidentified individuals attempting to deliver packages or other items to an office or to a specific person.

  • Unidentified individuals attempting to remove property from an office or a facility without proper authorization.

  • Unidentified individuals who appear to be conducting surveillance of a facility (e.g. sitting in a vehicle for an extended period of time and/or taking photographs or videotaping, etc.).

  • An unidentified individual observed placing an object or a package outside a facility and departing the area.

Checklist for Suspicious Items or Vehicles

  • Any unattended backpacks, boxes, containers, luggage and/or packages in an elevator, hallway, lobby, restroom, snack bar or stairwell of your facility.

  • Any item that could be an improvised explosive device (e.g. items with visible wires, antennas, batteries, timing devices, metal or plastic pipe with each end capped or covered, etc.). NOTE: Untrained personnel should not examine or move a possible improvised explosive device; the area must be cleared pending the arrival of bomb squad personnel. Contact law enforcement immediately.

  • Rental vehicles/trailers parked near a facility, parked at or near the loading dock, or located in the parking lot without prior authorization.

    ? Any vehicle that appears to be overloaded or has any substance leaking from it.

  • Any vehicle parked illegally or parked at an unusual location.

  • Any type of vehicle that appears to be abandoned (e.g. inspection sticker expired or missing, registration plate expired or missing, etc.).

Reporting Procedures for Suspicious Persons and Activities:

If you observe a suspicious person or persons, a suspicious item or a suspicious vehicle, you should immediately report the information to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Non-emergency tips should be called immediately to your area’s appropriate tip line and/or e-mail address.

For an emergency or an imminent event immediately report it to 911 or the local law enforcement agency, if known.

You should be prepared to provide your name, location and call-back number.

You should be prepared to explain exactly what type of emergency is being reported.

You should be prepared to stay on the line with the call taker and to answer the call taker’s questions to the best of his/her ability; the call taker should terminate the call.

You might be requested to meet with the first responder to answer his/her questions and to direct the officer to the correct location.

For more information on suspicious persons, items and activities, log on to or contact your local law enforcement agency.

Final Thoughts

Of course, the majority of possible suspicious persons and activities turn out to have nothing to do with terrorism, or even a criminal act. Everything that we observe must be viewed through the looking glass of the totality of the circumstances.

Sidebar: It's a Dog's World to Sniff Suspicious

It may turn out that dogs are better at identifying terrorists and criminals than people. One example: Crazy Joe (pictured) is a detector dog for the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol. Dogs also provide guard and detection service in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, Army Sergeant Herman Haynes and his German Shepherd, Frenke, have distinguished themselves through exceptional service in Afghanistan and Iraq. They were recently honored with the “Heroic Military Working Dog Award” from American Kennel Club Chairman Ronald Menaker. The AKC raises funds to support canine search and rescue organizations throughout the U.S. Dogs played an essential role in Katrina search, rescue and recovery operations. Photo courtesy: PRNewsFoto