I. How to describe suspicious behavior
Describing Suspicious Behavior

  • WHO did you observe?
  • WHAT did you see? Be specific.
  • WHERE did you see it?
  • WHEN did you see it?
  • WHY is it suspicious?
Giving A Description
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Age (approximate)
  • Height (use 2" blocks ex. 5'8" or 5'10")
  • Weight (approximate, use 10 lb. Blocks ex. 180 lb. or 190 lb.)
  • Build (medium, heavy set, thin, etc.)
  • Hair (color - light, dark, blonde, and length - bald, short cropped, shoulder length)
  • Complexion (light, dark, ruddy, olive)
  • Peculiarities (scar, tattoos, missing limbs)
  • Clothing (from head to toe, style, defects)
  • Weapons (if any)
  • Method of escape (direction, vehicle, etc.)
  • License Plate (most important)
  • Year, make, model & color
  • Body type (2 door, 4 door, van, SUV, etc.)
  • Passengers (number of people in vehicle)
  • Damage or anything unusual (logos, etc.)
  • Markings, or anything unusual.
Ways To Improve Observation Skills
  • Employ good listening skills
  • Do not let personal feelings interfere with the incident
  • Look at the entire situation before making a judgment
  • Watch for non-verbal communication signs
  • Use feedback to obtain and verify information report
  • Observe and report - notify your local police!
  • DO NOT become personally involved
The Office of Counter Terrorism (OCT)
About OCT

The Office of Counter Terrorism (OCT) was created as part of the merger that established the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. OCT includes staff and Units from its predecessor, the Office of Homeland Security (OHS). The mission of OCT is to support federal, state, local, tribal and private sector efforts to Prevent, Protect against and Prepare for acts and threats of terrorism.

Although Counter Terrorism is OCT's primary mission, many of our programs and initiatives support capabilities that can be applied to other threats and hazards as well. Like OHS, OCT is not a law enforcement agency, but we work closely with the New York State Police and other law enforcement and public safety agencies in the fight against terrorism.

Safeguard New York

Safeguard New York is an outreach initiative designed to educate individuals, community groups and other public and private sector organizations on how to recognize and report suspicious activity. Safeguard New York promotes the "See Something, Say Something" campaign and the State's Terrorism Tip Line (1-866-SAFE-NYS - 1-866-723-3697). Information is also provided on the eight signs of terrorism listed below.

You can now also "See Something, Send Something", which allows anyone to capture suspicious activity as a photo or written note, and send the information to the New York State Intelligence Center. From there, the tip will be reviewed and, if relevant, sent to the appropriate law enforcement agency. The application, which can be downloaded for free for iPhone and Android phone users, can be downloaded at:

II. Learn how to spot suspicious activity

We have the opportunity to identify individuals with malicious intentions before they are able to cause damage. While preparing for an attack they may conduct themselves in ways that do not match the usual pattern of activity found within our daily lives which makes them stand out from others.

Know the routines of your community, always remain alert and aware of what is going on around you, and take what you hear seriously. Share this important information with your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers. Learn the 8 signs of terrorism.

Know how to describe suspicious behavior

The more accurately you can describe the behavior you observed, the more useful you will be to the authorities reviewing the suspicious activity or incident.Learn how to accurately describe suspicious behavior.

If you observe suspicious activity,
always remember these important tips:

DO NOT take direct action
DO NOT confront the individual
DO NOT reveal your suspicions
DO record as many details as possible
DO notify the appropriate authorities as soon as possible
III. Learn how to spot suspicious activity
The eight signs of terrorism:

(1) Surveillance: Terrorist cells have been known to record and monitor activities, taking pictures and making drawings. Be alert to those individuals you see at emergency scenes on a repeat basis. Being observant supports homeland security and fire prevention efforts.

(2) Information Gathering: Be aware of individuals attempting to gain information about your operations, staffing and security protocols that appear to be more than just typical curiosity.

(3) Tests of Security: Be alert to any attempts to measure reaction times to entering restricted areas. Be alert to who is in and around your station. Emergency vehicles and uniforms have been stolen in an attempt to use them during acts of terrorism.

(4) Funding: Suspicious transactions involving large cash payments, deposits, withdrawals, or transfers of money; bulk cash smuggling; suspected financial fraud; sale of counterfeit goods; or misleading charities.

(5) Acquiring Supplies: Through your full time or part time employment be alert to those attempting to obtain explosives, weapons, uniforms, badges, credentials, etc. Amassing large quantities of equipment should send up a red flag if the individual acquiring those materials has no business doing so.

(6) Suspicious Persons Out of Place: This may include people who are in places they should not be, as well as people who do not fit into the daily routine of surroundings or the emergency scene.

(7) Dry or Trial Run: Be alert to people that just look out of place or you have seen at multiple emergency scenes as they could be part of a dry run exercise for illegal activity. Be alert to multiple false alarms to the same location, especially areas considered critical infrastructure such as government buildings and schools.

(8) Deploying Assets: Beware of what looks like people and supplies getting into position to commit an act of violence. Remember scene safety, if you spot something or get information on the way to a call that suggests you and your crew would be in danger consider staging (assembling) at a safe distance and follow your department's scene safety protocols.

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