Terrorist Surveillance Detection for Soft Targets

By Jim McGuffey, M.A., CPP, PSP, PCI

In recent years, viewers of acesecurityconsultants.com website, have asked me to share security countermeasures to help prevent terrorist attacks on Commercial Facilities using Improvised Explosives Devices (IED). I decided due to emerging terrorist threats against places of worship, commercial facilities and other soft targets in the United States.

Focusing on the fact that many soft targets operate on a shoe-string budget as it relates to security expenditures, requires non-traditional solutions to meet emerging threats and improve safety and security. This article cites one cost effective and proactive security strategy, that being Surveillance Detection.

Terrorist plan attacks and although significant pieces of their information is collected from open sources, physical surveillance is required to finalize a plan of attack.

Part of the terrorist attack cycle includes initial surveillance of the target and additional surveillance which occurs when the target selection is determined; it is during these surveillance cycles that you have the best chance to identify this activity and alert law enforcement to the possibility that adversaries are looking at your facility.

In order for the adversary to blend into your area, they may use ruses. A few ruses or props might include: Beggar or homeless person; Delivery person; Construction worker, Power line-man; Surveyor, Power Company Line-man

During hostile surveillance to occur, terrorists seek a location to position themselves in what are referred to as red zones which meets the following three requirements:

Red Zones

The red zones are where adversaries can position members to watch your facility looking for vulnerabilities of the target facilities. These adversaries  will normally seek the following three criteria.
1) View of the target. Adversaries want to observe vulnerabilities so they need a good view.
2) Cover and concealment. Adversaries need to be able to apply cover and concealment tactics.
3) Safety and Exit. Adversaries need a safe route to enter and exit the site.

Green Zones

Once you identify where red zones are most likely to be located, you can now identify the green zones. Green zones are where you position your team to best observe adversaries without being observed. At places of worship with security teams, security members will want to position themselves in green zones to observe those in red zones.

Houses of Worship without security teams will want to at least be cognizant of surveillance detection and suspicious activities to report to law enforcement.

Following are a few suspicious activities you might observe around your facility:

• Someone taking notes or photos who stops abruptly when you observe
• Bending down to place or retrieve a camera or microphone
• Pointing at the target
• Sudden glancing away when approaching
• Casually looking around
• Pacing off distance
• Circling the block in a taxi or vehicle
• Stopping to tie and shoe and looking around
• Car parked nearby with occupants taking note or photos

One or two of these activities alone may not indicate that your location is under surveillance but they should raise a red flag that additional observation may be warranted. I recommend that you do not approach people acting suspicious for your safety and also, we don’t want to chase them off but rather report to law enforcement. Law enforcement may have had other reports of suspicious activities and want to conduct covert surveillance to see what other information can be learned.