By Brandon BieltzMay 20, 2011
FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. (May 19, 2011) - In 1996 the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia were attacked by terrorists. More than 19 U.S. service members were killed and nearly 400 people from other countries were injured.
In the days leading up to the attack, the terrorists surveyed the site 42 times.
"If you can connect just two of [the surveys] out of the 42, you're going to have a better chance at preventing the attack," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Walker, operations sergeant at the Directorate of Emergency Services.
Now, nearly 15 years later, there is a website for community members to report suspicious activity. iWatchftmeade.org was launched a month ago as a resource for Fort Meade residents to help keep their community safe.
"It's a way to get the community involved," Walker said. "We only have so many guards, so many MPs, so many set of eyes looking at something at any given time."
Through iWatch, community members can report suspicious activities or behaviors that may indicate criminal or terrorist activity. Such suspicious activities as scoping a neighborhood or taking photographs of an area need to be reported, said Sgt. 1st Class (P) Daniel Wolfe, provost sergeant at DES.
"If it's something that they think can possibly be leading up to a crime or a terrorist activity, they can report it through iWatch," he said.
If someone sees a crime taking place, the individual should call 911 immediately, Wolfe said.
Once the iWatch report has been filed, DES will enter the information into the system.
If DES receives more data about the report, the military police will be able to access the original report and add the new information. These reports will be sent to other agencies to monitor the activity and possibly identify a trend.
By sharing the information with other agencies such as civilian police forces and emergency services at other installations, potential crimes or attacks can be pieced together before they happen, Wolfe said.
"Say Fort Myers [in Virginia] is reporting a red sedan and a certain description of a male, and three days later Fort Meade does the same thing. It's going to be pieced together and reported to senior leaders," Wolfe said.
Wolfe used the Sept. 11 attacks as an example for how iWatch can help prevent attacks. Had various suspicious activities been reported at the time, someone may have been able to put all the reports together and prevent the attack.
"If somebody from another installation is seeing one thing and then I see it and then Fort Detrick sees it, that's a trend," Wolfe said. "The proper personnel needs to see that kind of stuff so they can start piecing the puzzle together."
Both Wolfe and Walker said the iWatch program relies on the community to take notice of suspicious activities or behaviors, and that it is critical for the community to report what they see.
For example, if a suspicious person enters a Fort Meade office, the individual should be reported because that person doesn't "just do one thing -- they do different things" that may indicate a pattern, Walker said. "And if we can tie a bunch of them together, that's beautiful."