‘If You See Something, Say Something’

Government campaign encourages reporting of suspicious activity

In the wake of a number of recent shootings, including last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Gov. Kim Reynolds has launched a new campaign to encourage people to report suspicious activity.

Fort Dodge Police Chief Roger Porter said his department is always encouraging people to speak out about suspicious activity. He said it’s something that’s impressed upon students in the department’s Citizens Academy, as well as in posts on the department’s social media pages.

“We talk about the pieces of the puzzle,” Porter said. “No piece of the puzzle is too small and one piece might be the one that completes the big picture.”

The “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign is a partnership between multiple federal, state and local agencies, including the United States Department of Homeland Security, the Iowa Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Iowa State Sheriffs’ and Deputies’ Association, the Iowa Police Chiefs Association and the Safeguard Iowa Partnership.

“There are things we can all do to increase the safety of our communities, state and nation,” Reynolds said in a written statement. “We are asking all Iowans to pay attention to their surroundings, and if they see something that looks suspicious, to report it to local law enforcement or call 911.”

Webster County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Forbes said the main focus of the effort is on terrorism, but added there’s also a push for people within school communities to report anything suspicious.

Forbes said any number of things can be considered suspicious, including “a vehicle parked in an odd location, a package or luggage unattended somewhere, eliciting information (such as a person asking questions seeking unreasonable answers).”

He added that school faculty and staff are encouraged to be vigilant for signs of potential violence and report it to school officials.

Other suspicious behavior to be on the lookout for, according to Forbes, is someone asking about security procedures, when shift changes are, and any unusual questions about building security and surveillance.

“Obviously, some of these activities could be innocent,” Forbes said. “But it’s always up to law enforcement to determine whether that behavior warrants an investigation.”

Time is of the essence in reporting suspicious activity, according to Porter. If there’s a delay, it could mean a piece of the puzzle is missing.

“But if you call the police, we might be able to put something together,” he said. “And it might be something important, and it might not be anything.”

Porter added that it’s better to err on the side of caution if there’s suspicion about something being wrong.

“If something doesn’t feel right, for whatever reason, then let us come and check it out,” he said. “There’s no harm in doing that.”