Law enforcement, counterterrorism and intelligence communities are reporting increased activity of concern around religious organizations and worship sites, such as reports of suspicious activity and vandalism. The Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Risk Management encourage all parishes to elevate their awareness of, and attention to, any activity that may be considered unusual or suspicious in nature and report it immediately. In addition, we urge you to create a safety committee to aid in the implementation of emergency plans and procedures.
Learn how to recognize the signs of pre-operational planning associated with terrorism or other criminal activity and contact authorities if you notice any of the behaviors. The Department of Homeland Security has identified the following behaviors to watch out for:
Breach/Attempted Intrusion: Look out for unauthorized persons attempting to enter or actually entering a restricted area or non-public area.
Misrepresentation: Report individuals who try to present false information in order to misrepresent their identity.
Photography: Be aware of individuals taking pictures or videos of persons, facilities, buildings, or infrastructure in an unusual or surreptitious manner.
Observation/Surveillance: Take note of individuals demonstrating unusual or prolonged interest in facilities, buildings, or infrastructure beyond mere casual (e.g., tourists) or professional interest. Examples include observation through binoculars, taking notes, or attempting to mark off or measure distances.
Eliciting information: Take note of a person questioning individuals or otherwise soliciting information at a level beyond mere curiosity about a particular facet of a facility’s or building’s purpose, operations, or security procedures. For example, be on alert if someone asks about Mass attendance, i.e. which Mass time is most popular, etc.
In addition, please follow these general safety tips:
- Immediately report any suspicious activity to local law enforcement or public safety officials who are best positioned to respond and offer specific details on terroristic indicators. Once reported to the authorities, please notify the Office of Risk Management as soon as practical.
- Always be aware of your surroundings. Whether walking the grounds of your parish or arriving to/departing from the office, try not to be tempted by the lure of electronics and other distractions. Be aware of other individuals or objects that may seem out of place.
- Be aware of unattended packages, especially those that have the following characteristics: 1.) Looks out of place in a particular location, such as a suitcase at a non-airport bus or train station; 2.) Is located in an out-of-the-way place where it is not readily visible; 3.) Matches something described in a reported threat or has a threatening note attached; 4.) Has visible wires, batteries, a clock or timer, bottles, tanks or bag attached; 5.) Is abandoned by someone quickly leaving the area; 6.) Is emitting an odor, mist or oily liquid, or leaking a powdery substance.
- When in populated places, be responsible for your personal safety. Make a mental note of emergency exits and locations of the nearest security personnel.
- Keep cell phones in your pockets instead of bags or on tables so you don’t lose them during an incident.
- Carry emergency contact details and any special needs information with you at all times.
If you have any questions or concerns about any of the above, please contact Joseph McEnness.