THE MAGAZINE

Creating Public Support for SARs

By Matthew Harwood

First, DHS and the NSI-PMO didn’t want to make it a federal initiative. “These are state and local initiatives that need to have grassroots relevance,” explains Ashley. Second, federal SAR partners didn’t want to create the perception that it will collect and store a vast array of data on the American public and give the government another powerful surveillance tool.

The potential for using social media “is something that each individual fusion center and locality will determine based on their own state and local policies and regulations,” says Sobczyk.

Some cities and states have. During the 2010 Super Bowl, the Dallas Police Department unveiled its iWatch app to report suspicious activity. In West Virginia, a SAR app allows users to report suspicious activity, along with photos and geo-
tags, directly to the state’s fusion center. Tipsters can remain anonymous , potentially decreasing fears of retaliation.

The NFCA continues to advocate for a standardized app platform that citizens in any locality could use to report suspicious activity and receive emergency information from local law enforcement, such as an active-shooter situation nearby. Sena argues that the easier the process is for citizens, the more traction SARs will receive.

No matter how many SAR apps are developed, the NSI-PMO knows that some people will continue to call 911 to report suspicious activity. For that reason, the NSI-PMO has also developed training for 911 operators to ensure that SAR tips are routed to the appropriate law enforcement entity or fusion center.

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