For Dakotas, anti-terrorism campaign is a part of life, too
BISMARCK, N.D. -- If you see something, say something. That's the nationwide campaign slogan as the country worries about possible terrorism attacks, even in the remote and mostly rural areas of the Dakotas.Although the homeland security office i...
BISMARCK, N.D. - If you see something, say something.
That’s the nationwide campaign slogan as the country worries about possible terrorism attacks, even in the remote and mostly rural areas of the Dakotas.
Although the homeland security office in both North Dakota and South Dakota haven’t had any credible threats of terrorism, there’s always the possibilities.
Cecily Fong, the public information officer for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, which includes the homeland security division, said they are still encouraging residents to watch for terrorism signs and there is a push going on nationwide to make people more aware of what they can do.
“We say if you see anything weird or out of the ordinary, call. It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Fong said. “Don’t feel stupid about it.”
The division recommends people call local law enforcement to report anything suspicious.
If local officials believe there is a threat, it can be pushed up further on the investigative and analysis system to the State and Local Intelligence Center.
Wong said there is a team of about eight people in the center who gather, analyze, investigate and disseminate the tips.
In North Dakota, the center is made up of about eight people from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Highway Patrol and the Department of Emergency Services. If they see a tip as being credible, they can call for help from the federal government, too.
Wong said over the years she’s unaware of any credible threats of serious terrorism in the state, but one advantage of having the center is that there’s been multiple cases of fugitives from other states being arrested in the state because of tips.
“That’s been a real success story,” she said.
The center also keeps tabs on any possible threat to the critical infrastructure in the state. One of those facilities is Garrison Dam on the Missouri River, Wong said.
“This area isn’t as populated as some other places in the country, but even in the Twin Cities they have had some radicalization of people there,” she said.
To help in the effort, she said the department is putting up billboards around state promoting the “see something, say something” campaign.
South Dakota is also making an effort to make people more aware of what to look for and what to do if they see something suspicious. Officials there have also used billboards, radio public service announcements and posters to raise awareness. Tony Mangan, public information officer for the South Dakota Department of Public Safety, said one major concern this past year was at the 75th anniversary of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, during which close to 1 million people flooded into the state.
Mangan and South Dakota Homeland Security Director Steve Pluta said this week there also have been no credible threats of terrorism in the state in the past years and stated there is no current threats in the state, but people still need to be observant.
“The recent terrorist events throughout the world have shown that such activity can take place anywhere,” Pluta said.
To help keep awareness on people’s minds, Pluta has released a list of eight signs that residents can watch for that might indicate possible terrorist activity.
n Surveillance: If you see people conducting a survey of a possible target such as taking pictures of access points, security personnel and security cameras.
n Information gathering: If a person is asking probing questions about security or operations about a possible target.
n Testing security: Is someone trying to find out how long and from where law enforcement or security will respond to an incident? This may include leaving behind an unattended package or trespassing.
n Funding: Is someone raising funds through drug trafficking or fake charitable contributions to finance weapons and supplies?
n Acquiring supplies: Is someone stockpiling weapons or communications equipment? Or is someone making strange or bulk purchases of chemicals such as household cleaners, fertilizer or beauty supplies paying with cash or pre-paid credit cards.
n Impersonation: A person trying to impersonate first responders or maintenance workers. The person may present false documents or IDs or wear incomplete uniforms.
n Rehearsal: People may rehearse an incident several times to include putting people into their place or testing emergency response times.
n Deployment: If you see someone getting into position and ready to execute an operation.