The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness Division partnered with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) on a project to research and develop a strategy to improve the public’s awareness and reporting of suspicious activity. In early 2010, IACP conducted research of contemporary and historical practices intended to improve the public’s reporting of suspicious activity. The literature review showed that little research existed on the motivations and barriers that affect whether or not individuals report information to law enforcement. To close this gap in data, IACP developed a three phase primary research strategy. This report provides an overview of key research findings and provides insights and recommendations that support national and local campaigns.
This research effort complements other national efforts like the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “If You See Something, Say Something™” public awareness campaign. The “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign was originally used by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which has licensed the use of the slogan to DHS for anti-terrorism and anti-crime efforts. As part of the campaign, DHS has partnered with multiple private sector partners, sporting teams, transportation agencies, states, cities, colleges and universities. Great strides have been made within the last few years to improve information sharing amongst law enforcement agencies and fusion centers via initiatives like the NSI; yet, more can be done to improve the quantity and quality of information that law enforcement receives from the public.
Residents know their communities best and are often the first to notice when something out of the ordinary occurs. With the onset of decreased resources and increased responsibilities, law enforcement is more reliant than ever on community members to provide accurate, reliable, and timely information regarding suspicious activities that may be indicators of terrorism.
Communities should leverage new technologies to promote anonymous and easily accessible methods of reporting. Many community members fear retaliation and value anonymity when contacting law enforcement. Website portals, text messaging, and mobile phone applications can be used to allow for convenient, anonymous reporting.