Iowa Department of Public Safety
215 East 7th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

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For immediate release: Alex Murphy
  Public Information Officer
Investigative Operations
Iowa Department of Public Safety
June 20, 2016
(515) 443-3014 - cell
(515) 725-6189 - office

See Something, Say Something in Wake of Recent Tragedies

DES MOINES— The Iowa Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, along with Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds are urging Iowans to pay attention to and report suspicious activity in the wake of recent violent acts in the United States and abroad.

The “See Something, Say Something” campaign was the focus of Governor Branstad’s weekly press conference today, which is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. DPS and HSEMD announced a new statewide initiative by their departments to increase public awareness of the See Something, Say Something campaign. Beginning in late June, public service messages will be aired on radio stations throughout Iowa.

The DPS wants Iowans to know what is meant by suspicious activity. It’s not based on personal characteristics like race, ethnicity or religion, but rather on out-of-the-ordinary behavior that suggests there may be something criminal occurring.

It is difficult to predict human behavior, but it can be helpful to recognize that the commission of any criminal act requires some planning and preliminary steps.   Watching for preliminary actions can give good sense of what may come next. Most crimes don’t just happen in the spur of the moment.  Most offenders take some preliminary steps – surveillance of the area, acquiring weapons or clothing, doing test runs, identifying potential victims or opportune times.

When we use the term “suspicious activity,” we are talking about the things that we would expect to be done in preparing to commit the crime.

Some things always cause some concern:

  • When you see or hear about explosives, that is inherently dangerous and should be reported.
  • If you see or hear about plans to poison water or air, that is inherently dangerous and should be reported.
  • When someone describes how to shoot dozens of people – report it.

Some things may not be inherently dangerous, but raise some concerns:

  • When you see a vehicle parked in an odd location, or a package or luggage that is unattended – report it.
  • When you encounter see someone who watches a building repeatedly, or for a long time, with no indications of meeting someone or conducting business there – report it.

People know what is typical or normal in their surroundings.  When activity looks out of the ordinary, people should pay attention and report their observations to the police.

Sometimes threats are made explicitly, and sometimes they are implied. 
Keep in mind that not everyone who makes a threat actually poses a threat.

The more detail they provide, especially if it indicates that they have done some preliminary preparation, the greater the threat they actually pose.

What should you report? Police need to know specific details.

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • Why
  • How

Give specific descriptions if you can. 

  • License plate numbers
  • Descriptions of vehicles
  • Physical characteristics
  • Distinguishing personal characteristics or clothing
  • Detailed  descriptions of the suspicious behavior
  • Statements made or questions asked
  • Location of the encounter, or the possible target

The more details you provide to police, the more useful the information can be.

If you think that a family member or a friend may pose a threat, say something. 

  • You know them best.  You know what is unusual and what causes you concern.
  • You can see changes in their behavior.
  • You know when they are posing a threat.

 The police need to know about that, too.

Who should you call?

  • Call 911
    • Or if there is an officer nearby, talk with them in person
  • Local law enforcement officials know their community the best
  • Those local agencies can contact state or federal officials with the information

The See Something, Say Something campaign was developed several years ago by the New York City Transportation Authority. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the campaign nationwide and has partnered with all levels of government and the private sector with a focus on increasing awareness of terrorism and reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement.

Learn more about See Something, Say something at


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