Central Texas lawmen have had a busy couple of days investigating a possible terror attack threat by an AWOL soldier. CNN had this bit that I thought was interesting:
Carter's office said Killeen gun shop Guns Galore, the same store used by Hasan to purchase weapons allegedly used in his attack, tipped off police concerning a "suspicious male" who purchased gunpowder, shotgun ammunition, and a magazine for a semiautomatic handgun.
Greg Ebert, a retired police officer who works at Guns Galore, said a young man showed up in the store Tuesday afternoon and browsed for about 20 minutes. He selected six one-pound canisters of smokeless gunpowder, Ebert said.
Then, Ebert said, the man asked the store owner questions about the nature of smokeless powder.
"That is a red flag for me," Ebert said. "He should know. Why is he buying that much?"
Ebert said the man also picked up one magazine and shotgun shells, and then left in a cab. After discussing the matter at length with the owner, Ebert called police.
While it appears that lots of great law enforcement work led to making this arrest, the crucial point is that none of this work would have happened had an alert business not made the call. In this case, the store employee was a retired police officer. However, it could have just as easily came from someone with no law enforcement background.
It is vitally important that we ensure our agencies are engaging their communities and encouraging the reporting of suspicious activity whether it is related to a terror attack or just plain old, run of the mill crimes. Often times citizens are hesitant to make the call because they aren't sure of their information's importance or they don't want to be seen as a crank.
What is your agency doing to ensure that citizens are encouraged to report this type of activity? Do your officers know the importance of taking citizens' reports seriously even if it might turn out to be "nothing"? While you might get 100 tips that turn out to be nothing, the one time you get a good tip, it could be the one that saves lives like this one apparently did.