Florida has activated its 13-county system in which they say regular citizens will be able to report suspicious activity related to terrorism. The new systems stresses the “see something, say something” mantra to Floridians. The iWATCH system, individuals have the convenience of making the report online.
The site provides examples of red flags to watch for, such as people with an unusual interest in building plans or who are purchasing materials useful in bomb making. Important places to watch include hobby stores and dive shops.
The list also includes malls, hotels and motels, financial institutions, and rental properties. We all know that if you rent something, you’re probably a terrorist.
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Unfortunately, most individuals don’t have the expertise to know if their neighbor is simply buying the something because it is a part of their hobby or because they have nefarious intentions. Law enforcement encourages you to report them anyway. This way, their name is in a database and can be watched in the future.
Reports entered in the iWATCH system are sent to the individual counties through a central clearing house. It is also passed to other counties, in case the information can be connected to something similar or related. The program was set up using a $150,000 state grant and piggybacks on an existing information-sharing system law enforcement uses now.
The sites combine iWATCH with the county name, or in Jacksonville’s case the city, to direct the report. The site for Jacksonville is www.iwatchjax.com.
Other counties in the program are: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Flagler, Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Union.
While the police must show that the are doing something to prevent terrorism, this system has the potential to cause more problems than it solves.
Individual citizens do not pick out terrorists as their neighbors. Those that have been caught were either set up by the FBI or caught after they committed their crimes. Although not considered terrorism, neighbors in Cleveland had no idea their neighbor had three girls in his home for years. How would they pick out a careful, methodical terrorist?
Those making reports must provide their name and contact information.
For iWATCH, people are less likely to be targeted by rumors or malicious accusations. Also, it gives investigators the opportunity to further interview the person reporting the activity.
This is a good thing. If law enforcement pays attention, they may be able to catch a person who is abusing the system. Hopefully, that will happen before some innocent person’s life is ruined.
In the long run, this program is about the government continuing its pressure upon the people of the United States to live in a constant state of fear. Ordinary citizens will believe that there are numerous terrorists in the United States simply because this program exists. They will then begin to second guess every single purchase they make and begin looking upon their neighbors as suspicious because they purchased something that could be used for terrorism (Hint: Most things you purchase could be used for crimes. It doesn’t mean it will be.). As an American, I would still rather be a victim of terrorism than live in a society where everyone lives in fear, reports on their friends, family, and neighbors, and is generally not allowed to do anything without the government saying it’s suspicious.