Resident Information

Every U.S. resident should be aware of the threat of terrorism and how to handle this threat. Such knowledge is all the more essential because we live in a major metropolitan area. Large, heavily populated urban centers all over the world have long been the favored targets of terrorists.

First, it’s important to understand what terrorism is … and what it isn’t. For an act to be considered terrorism, it must be a crime.


It’s NOT a crime to:

• Make harsh or inflammatory comments about the U.S., its government or its people.
• Have a strong set of beliefs that go beyond what is considered respectable discourse. Americans are guaranteed the right of free speech;

Crimes include:


Defining Terrorism

The term “terrorist” can only apply to someone who has actually committed a crime. Terrorism is a type of blackmail used to threaten or intimidate.

Terrorism might target:

  • Government policies
  • One or more local communities
  • A business or businesses
  • One or more racial or ethnic groups
  • Members of any specialty group

The goals of terrorism are usually political, social, or religious in nature. Terrorists often truly believe they are pursuing justifiable and righteous goals.

Terrorists may be seeking:

  • To influence policy decisions
  • Their own homeland or some type of independence
  • Downfall of an existing government seen as unresponsive, authoritarian, corrupt or immoral
  • Exemption from various laws or rules
Origins of Terrorism

In many cases, terrorists have tried to address their issues legally. But they become frustrated over the slowness of the legal system and the lack of change. Some become convinced their cause has been ignored or treated unjustly.

Terrorists believe their cause is so important that any action is justified. These people are willing to commit crimes, go to jail, and sometimes to die or take another’s life for this cause.

Goals of Terrorism

There are several immediate objectives that all terrorist groups attempt to gain through their acts.

  • Fear and panic
  • Disruption of services
  • Demoralization
  • Intimidation
  • Embarrassment of government leaders
  • Media attention
Who are Terrorists?

One essential fact to remember is that it is not illegal for an individual to belong to any political group …

… even if other members of that group have committed terroristic acts …

… as long as the individual is not committing, conspiring to commit, or aiding others in committing criminal acts.

It is not what you say or think, it is what you DO that defines one as a terrorist

What to look for

The following key points summarize some behaviors that could be suspicious. In addition to reviewing these points, we invite you to watch a six-minute video on spotting suspicious behavior.

  1. Suspicious Packages/Concealed IEDs

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are the main terrorist threat to public places. IEDs are generally small and easily transportable.

  • Be alert to bags and packages left unattended
  • If you see someone leave a bag, don’t touch it, leave the area and alert the authorities
  1. Surveillance

During the planning phase, a terrorist will often conduct surveillance on a possible target. Watch for the following suspicious behaviors:

  • Taking photos or videotaping entrances and exits
  • Trying to conceal their actions
  • Asking inappropriate questions about schedules, the facility or security
  • Using binoculars or drawing diagrams
  1. Unusual Supplies
  • Be suspicious of items like wire, batteries, altered electronics, chemicals or various unidentifiable substances
  • Be alert for individuals purchasing large amounts of chemicals, fertilizers or other suspicious items
  1. Unseasonable/Bulky Clothing
  • Observe when someone seems to be wearing unusually thick or bulky clothing — such apparel could indicate concealed explosives or weapons. Especially if the clothing is inappropriate for the current season.
  • If possible, place a solid physical object and/or some distance between you, bystanders and the possible threat
  1. Unauthorized Entrance into Restricted Areas
  • Strangers seen loitering near — or entering — exits or “employees only” areas warrant notifying management and/or police
  1. Unauthorized or Empty Vehicles
  • Report vehicles apparently left vacant for long periods, or vehicles parked in prohibited areas



  • Be aware and alert
  • Don’t rely on others to take action
  • Don’t ignore your instincts