SIDNEY — In today’s troubling times, everyone must be aware of their surroundings and the people around them.
“Every few weeks someone across America or around the world is responsible for some form of terrorism,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart. “It’s our responsibility as citizens to report it if you think something is going on.
“Whether it’s local signs or when you are traveling around the area, you should be aware of your surroundings,” he said. “In Lima, we have the tank plant. In Dayton, we have Wright Pat. There’s all types of malls and sporting events.”
Lenhart said everyone should be able to recognize the signs for a potential terrorist plot. The person observing the suspicious behavior should gather information which can then be given to law enforcement.
“If you see someone taking pictures of entrances to events, make note of it,” said Lenhart. “If the person is drawing the floor plan of the mall or building, take note of it. If they are using binoculars, take note of it.”
The person, said Lenhart, might conduct a security test by setting off a fire alarm or other alarm to determine how long it will take law enforcement to arrive at the scene.
“We have a lot of people in Shelby County who work at Wright Pat and the tank plant,” said Lenhart. “They might work with security stuff. If a person starts asking them for detailed information, that’s a sign you need to be watching for. All the employees (Wright Pat and tank plant) are trained not to talk about what they do for their jobs.”
Another sign someone might be planning a terrorist action is the stockpiling of materials.
“They might be stockpiling ammunition,” said Lenhart, “or fertilizer or weapons. Then they might go back in a few weeks and purchase more of the items.”
Also, he said, the manner in which they pay for the items can be a red flag. So they pay with a debit card, cash or via a third party?
“And they might store it someplace else and not where they live,” said Lenhart. “They might use a lock and store facility. If you have a storage unit, and see someone suspicious around there, contact law enforcement.
“If you see strangers and they seem nervous or out of place, that is another sign you can watch for,” said Lenhart. “If it’s spring or summer and they are overdressed, their overcoat might be hiding something.”
Another sign, said Lenhart, is the person is buying military surplus items, police uniforms and badges.
“If they are only wearing part of a uniform can be a sign that something is wrong,” said Lenhart. “Law enforcement always wears their entire uniform.”
The person, he said, might also be wearing a uniform like a utility worker.
“If you put a number of the things together, you should make the call to law enforcement,” said Lenhart.
If the person is involved in a suspected terrorist activity, they may have an odor associated with the materials they have been handling.
“A person handling chemicals will have a sweet and burning smell,” said Lenhart.
The alleged terrorist, he said, is usually a lone wolf. The person will use social media, such as Facebook, to talk about what they hate in life. There could be suicide threats associated with the postings.
“All of us like and dislike a person or things,” said Lenhart. “But the lone wolf will take an extreme position of dislike or hate and want to kill someone.
“Extremist groups could be racial to anti-abortion believers,” Lenhart said. “It could be a foreign terrorist group. It can be any type of hate group.”
The lone wolf, Lenhart said, is usually single, unemployed, has a criminal record, is white and has or has had a mental illness.
If you suspect someone is involved with a terrorist activity, Lenhart also had some guidelines the person should follow.
“Never approach the person by yourself,” said Lenhart. “You should report it to law enforcement.
“Write down identifying items, such as a description of the person and the vehicle’s license plate number. Tell law enforcement that you think the person is involved in a suspicious action.
“If you see something, call 911,” he said. “It’s everyone’s job to do this to protect ourselves and society.”
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.