Preventing terrorism: Part I

By Ted Parker

San Diego Police Department Neighborhood Policing Resource Team

First and foremost, continue to live your daily lives. Terrorism is only successful when it disrupts the lives of the people whose government is targeted.

Prepare as you would for any emergency, such as an earthquake, by having a 3- to 5-day supply of water and canned or dried food, blankets, flashlights, matches and other items that are part of any standard emergency kit.

Have a plan for your family or business that includes places where family members or employees should go in various scenarios. Go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Web site at for more information about threats and planning.

Reporting suspicious persons, activities, vehicles, etc.

Each terrorist attack in history has produced an information trail about the target, the acquisition of material to carry out the attack, i.e., explosives or other weapons, and the movement of money and people. Detecting these signs and reporting information about them to the proper agencies is the best way to prevent a terrorist act.

You should also be vigilant and aware of your surroundings and report anything that doesn’t fit in or seems out of the ordinary.

Be aware yet fair. Avoid stereotyping and profiling. Some examples of persons, activities, vehicles, etc. that could be considered suspicious will be listed in this parts II and III of this series. Some are clearly emergencies. They should be reported immediately by calling 9-1-1. Others may be considered as non-emergencies. Those in the City of San Diego should be reported to the SDPD at (619) 531-2000 or (858) 484-3154. Those in Del Mar should be reported to the San Diego County Sheriff at (858) 565-5200. They will notify and coordinate actions with the FBI and other government agencies.

When a terrorist act appears imminent you should also notify any law enforcement or security personnel that are in the immediate area. If there is any doubt as to whether the situation is an emergency it is always better to be on the safe side and call 9-1-1.

The ability of the police to locate and arrest criminals often depends on the thoroughness and accuracy of the report you submit. The following information checklist should be used for reporting both emergency and non-emergency crimes:

  • Type of activity
  • Location: exact street address and nearest cross street
  • Time of activity
  • Weapons involved
  • Vehicle information: type, license number, color, year, make, model, unusual characteristics (e.g., dents, bumper stickers), number of persons, etc.
  • Suspect information: race, gender, age, height, weight, hair color, hair length and style, eye color, facial hair, clothing type and color, other characteristics (e.g., tattoos, missing teeth, scars, glasses), etc.

Parts II and III to follow will give examples of various activities that are considered to be emergencies and non-emergencies for reporting purposes. This information is also available under Community Resources and Responsibilities in the Crime Prevention and Education section of the SDPD Web site at