What Can I, as a Citizen, Do to Prevent Terrorism?

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As citizens, there are a few key measures that we can take to help prevent terrorism. The biggest thing is to be aware. Be aware of your surroundings when you are out and be aware of others. Don’t be afraid to call for help and report a situation that makes you uneasy. Terrorist attacks are unlikely to happen in the United States and while being vigilante, we should not racially profile or ostracize others. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) promotes an initiative, “If You See Something, Say Something.” The idea behind this initiative is that most citizens know their communities the best. They are some of the first people to notice something is unusual or out of place. The DHS urges that if citizens do encounter something odd, especially something that makes you suspicious, to report it to local law enforcement. When reporting, try to be accurate in what made you notice the differences, what was unusual, and why did it make you uncomfortable or suspicious. If you think it is an emergency that needs addressing immediately, call 911. With citizens working alongside law enforcement, communities can be better protected and more aware.

Read more at: See Something, Say Something

It is also important to be aware of changes in people, especially in close friends or family members. Remember, it is not illegal to harbor radical thoughts. However, if these thoughts seem like they could turn to actions, awareness of the situation and those involved can be crucial. A large component of helping those at risk of radicalization is communication. Conflict is always going to happen. However, continuing to anger and upset those at risk of being radicalized can just further the process as they grow increasingly ostracized. Knowing ways to resolve conflict can help. Being calm, being willing to listen, and working together to solve problems are ways that we, as citizens, can help our friends and family who may feel that they have no one who will listen to or help them.

Like being aware of your surroundings, you should still be aware of the people to whom you are close. If someone you know well has begun to research and get involved with violent extremist material, has been considering weaponry and violence, is talking about traveling to suspicious areas, and is becoming increasingly withdrawn from friends and family, then there may be cause to report them. Again, thoughts are not illegal; but if you feel these thoughts may turn to action, you can act. Contact local law enforcement, talk to an authority figure like an educator, or talk to a community leader. If you think the situation is an emergency, call 911.

Read more at: fbi.gov

The biggest thing we can do as citizens is to be aware and report. However, there is a fine line between being aware of suspicious people and activities and profiling and ostracizing others. Being outcast can push people towards radicalization, and feeling like there is no one listening to their concerns and worries can drive people to violent extremism. By working together and having calm discussions, citizens can help to create safer communities. By being aware and knowledgeable, citizens can report to local law enforcement when necessary.