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Capital Watch: What is Suspicious Behavior?

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Suspicious activity is any observed behavior that could indicate a person may be involved in a crime or about to commit a crime. Each of us might think of different things when it comes to what appears suspicious. Here are some unusual behaviors that could be indicators of terrorist planning:

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. Multiple false alarms or fictitious emergency calls to a location or multiple venues of the same type (possibly to test emergency response).

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. Has anyone attempted to gain unusual information in person, by phone, mail, or email regarding your business or a facility nearby?

Stockpiling Supplies: Have you observed abandoned vehicles, suspicious materials or trash, or persons loitering in your neighborhood?

Acquiring Supplies: Are you aware of anyone trying to improperly acquire explosives, weapons, ammunition, or other dangerous materials that could be used in a terrorist act? A person purchasing items in quantities higher than household use that could be used to construct an explosive device (hydrogen peroxide, acetone, gasoline, propane, or fertilizer) or storing large quantities of these items.

Surveillance: Someone pays unusual attention to facilities or buildings beyond a casual or professional interest.

  • concealing the use of a camera or video camera
  • making notes, diagrams, or sketches of an area
  • asking unusual questions about or having a prolonged and unexplained interest in the facility, infrastructure, security.
  • making observations of or asking questions about facility HVAC (ventilation) systems.
  • observing security reaction drills or procedures at a facility
  • attempting unauthorized access to facility areas
  • taking pictures or video of security cameras, loading docks, ingress and egress points, etc.

Important Places to Watch

  • Government buildings
  • Religious facilities
  • Sports/Entertainment venues
  • High-rise buildings
  • Mass-gathering locations (e.g., parades, fairs, etc.)
  • Schools
  • Hotels
  • Theaters
  • Shopping malls
  • Bridges
  • Public transportation

Report Suspicious Activity

  • To report immediate threats or emergencies, call 911
  • To report anonymous tips or information, text to 50411
  • To report suspicious activity or behavior, call (202) 727-9099
  • Make a report using iWATCH (What is iWATCH?)