A new government program aims to train thousands of parking industry employees nationwide to watch for and report anything suspicious — abandoned cars, for example, or people hanging around garages, taking photographs or asking unusual questions.
"We can no longer afford as a nation to say, `It doesn't impact me or my family, so therefore I'm not getting involved,'" Bill Arrington of the Transportation Security Administration told parking industry professionals at a convention this week in Las Vegas. "We're saying, `Please, sir, get involved.'"
The program has been in the works for about a year and gave its first presentation at the convention, attended by hundreds of people who run parking operations for cities, universities, stadiums and other places around the country.
Funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and administered by TSA, the program teaches parking lot operators to watch for odd activities that could precede an attack by days or months: strange odors such as diesel from gasoline vehicles, cars parked where they shouldn't be, people who seem to be conducting surveillance by taking photos or drawing sketches.
The program is part of a larger effort by the government since 9/11 to enlist ordinary people — airline passengers, subway riders, bus drivers, truckers, doormen, building superintendents — to serve as the eyes and ears of law enforcement.