What is Suspicious Activity?

What is Suspicious Activity?

With the help of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI), the campaign has identified indicators of terrorism-related suspicious activity. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Unusual items or situations: A vehicle is parked in an odd location, a package/luggage is unattended, a window/door is open that is usually closed, or other out-of-the-ordinary situations occur.
  • Eliciting information: A person questions individuals at a level beyond curiosity about a building’s purpose, operations, security procedures and/or personnel, shift changes, etc.
  • Observation/surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest. This includes extended loitering without explanation (particularly in concealed locations); unusual, repeated, and/or prolonged observation of a building (e.g., with binoculars or video camera); taking notes or measurements; counting paces; sketching floor plans, etc.

Some of these activities could be innocent—it’s important to consider the context of the situation. It's then up to law enforcement to determine whether the behavior warrants investigation. 

We can all help keep our communities safe by paying attention to our surroundings and reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement or a person of authority.

Protecting Citizens' Civil Rights & Civil Liberties

The "If You See Something, Say Something®" campaign respects citizens' privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties by emphasizing behavior, rather than appearance, in identifying suspicious activity.

Factors such as race, ethnicity, and/or religious affiliation are not suspicious. The public should only report suspicious behavior and situations (e.g., an unattended backpack or package, or someone breaking into a restricted area). Only reports that document behavior that is reasonably indicative of criminal activity related to terrorism will be shared with federal partners.

Example indicators include:

Eliciting informationMaterials Acquisition/StorageSurveillanceSee More Indicators

How to Report Suspicious Activity

Public safety and security is everyone's responsibility. If you see suspicious activity, report it to local law enforcement or a person of authority using the “5W’s”:

Who did you see? What did you see? When you saw it. Where it occurred. Why it's suspicious.Who did you see? What did you see? When you saw it. Where it occurred. Why it's suspicious.

If there is an emergency, call 9-1-1.

Do not report suspicious activity to the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, notify local law enforcement.

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