Operation Tripwire: Anti-terror effort

Photo by Karen Zautyk/ Sgt. Tim Wagner is a KPD counterterrorism coordinator working with local businesses.


Although the 9/11 anniversary passed safely without any acts of terror, the public should by now be aware that anti-terror efforts, nationally and locally, have become part of daily life in America.
In support of the ongoing  security events, the Kearny Police Department is participating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in Operation Tripwire, Police Chief John Dowie announced last week.
Operation Tripwire is an outreach initiative between law enforcement and local businesses,  recognizing the critical role that private-sector partners play in preventing terrorist attacks by reporting of suspicious activities, the KPD explained.
The initiative identifies critical industries and retail segments that could be vulnerable to terrorist exploitation and educates their employees about behavioral indicators that might signal a customer’s nefarious intent.
The Kearny police have been pairing counterterrorism officers with community policing officers and making visits to local businesses that fall within certain industrial or retail categories.
“We felt it was a logical marriage to combine the efforts of our counterterrorism and community policing resources in a community outreach and education effort of this nature,” said Sgt. Tim Wagner, who is both the community policing supervisor and the town’s deputy counterterrorism coordinator.
“It allows our officers to demonstrate the department’s strong local commitment to homeland security while also giving merchants the opportunity to voice their concerns about policing-related issues of any nature,” said Wagner.
While this initiative goes on year-round, in preparation for the anniversary of 9/11, Homeland Security officials coordinated efforts to enhance terrorism awareness and prevention and  increase the reporting of suspicious activity.
“The best way to fight terrorism is through a total community effort, which is why we’re training the public to be better eyes and ears for law enforcement,” Wagner explained.  “We’re teaching business people that it is certain behaviors, not looks, which fit a terrorist profile, and hopefully this knowledge will provide us with more informed tips.”
Sgt. Rick Poplaski, who is Kearny’s counterterrorism coordinator, stresses the widely publicized “See Something; Say Something” campaign that is pushed throughout the tri-state area.  “We’re finding through community outreach interviews that some business people are recognizing suspicious customers and refusing to do business with them; however the businesses are not always contacting law enforcement about the encounters,” said Poplaski.
“We’re stressing the importance of contacting the police about any suspicious contacts, even if the customer is turned away by the business.  The more pieces of intelligence that we get from the public, the better we can connect the dots with the Joint Terrorism Task Force to uncover a potential terrorist plot,” he noted.
In Texas, Operation Tripwire tips have been credited with preventing a second terrorist attack on Fort Hood this past July, as well as a foiled plot to blow up the home of former President George W. Bush earlier this year.
Wagner advises, “Detailed descriptions that include license plate numbers or copies of identification cards of suspicious customers are certainly a gold standard of suspicious activity reporting, however we caution the public never to jeopardize their own safety to collect this information.”
Businesses or citizens who have a suspicious encounter are urged to immediately contact the Kearny Police Department at (201) 998-1313.

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