A national effort to standardize “suspicious activity” reports, now used in 12 states and localities, will be expanded to seven more states and three more urban areas, says Thomas O’Reilly of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. The effort, known as SAR, aims to share terrorism-related data at all levels of government. It now is operating in Florida, New York State, and Virginia as well as a few major cities, notably Los Angeles. Soon it will expand to Alabama, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin, along with Dallas, Kansas City and Savannah, Ga.
Before the SAR program, many jurisdictions did not take the trouble to record and disseminate reports such as people taking photos of bridges, not knowing whether the photographer might be planning a dangerous act. Knowing motives for certain may still be difficult, but risk assessment tools made available to law enforcement “help us to distinguish between tourism and terrorism,” O’Reilly told a meeting of the IJIS Institute in Bellevue, Wa. In an unusual agreement, major law enforcement groups–including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriffs Association, Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs Association–all have endorsed the program. The American Civil Liberties Union has not formally backed it but offered suggestions that were adopted by SAR’s planners and has not filed any objections, O’Reilly said.