Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - Class 7 Part 1

What I'm reading: Blind Justice by Kelsy George; contest entries

What I'm writing: Chapter 31. Writing has slowed down. I'm near the end of the book and have to make sure I tie things up. I've been revising the chapters that lead up to 31 after my CPs have had at them.

On to our class:
Last night we started with Homeland Security. Our presenter was a Deputy First Class who is with the Community Service section of the Crime Prevention Unit. These aren't the folks who keep an eye on "persons of interest" but rather deal with raising awareness for our own personal safety, teaching citizens how not to become victims.

He opened by telling us the the Sheriff's Office provides a home security evaluation service. A trained deputy (they have to take a 120 hour course) will come to you home and check your home for weaknesses: places where someone wanted to break in would have easiest access. I know if someone came to our house, he'd find lots of problems, starting with the landscaping out front that hides our entrance. We also learned how easy it is to break in through a garage door (he said he can do it in 10-15 seconds), and a few ways to make it harder.

Other tidbits -- because of the shortage of deputies, most neighborhood patrolling is done by officers going from one call to another. They just don't have time to cruise the streets looking for potential problems.

I have to admit, my initial reaction was that most of his advice (keep all your windows locked, lock your car door as soon as you get into it, make sure you've got stainless steel screws 3 1/2 inches long securing your dead bolt plate, don't keep your car registration in your car, landscape your property for security, not aesthetics) was that my lifestyle is being dictated by the "bad guys" but, as the deputy pointed out, an ounce of prevention ...

After these basics, he moved into a more global realm and showed a video of 9-11. Those images will never fail to remind us that in reality, we are all vulnerable. He touched on how terrorists operate, how they get their funding (40-70% from narcotics) with more coming from computer crimes. How many of us get those letters from the Nigerians?

Another point he made was the difference in mindset. For the most part, we're all loyal to our country. We may be Californians, Floridians, or New Yorkers, but we're Americans. In other parts of the world, they are loyal only to their own tribe. And they've been living war for generations. It's all they know. A parade celebrating suicide bombers is accepted/supported by 76% of the Palestinian population.

Groups with terrorist connections in the US train at our shooting ranges, our flight schools (and Florida has a kazillion of those!), and send their kids to summer camps where they learn the ways of jihad. We saw video shot by undercover ATF and FBI agents. Florida is a destination for terrorists because of the huge tourism industry, because we have a strong international business base, we are a transient community, and our demographics give terrorists the opportunity to blend in. On the other hand, these facts also make it easier for the department to make sure it gets its fair share of government grants allocated for security.

Terrorists want to blend in. Around here, that's quite possibly in the Hispanic community. Our speaker showed what the deputies are looking for--things like unkept yards, kids' toys in the yard, but never seeing kids (this is also something used by sexual predators), never seeing the residents of a house (someone's probably going to report our house, because I hardly go out except to the mailbox!), maybe 5 males live in the house, etc. However, he also made it clear that one has to look for an accumulation of suspicious occurrences.

In addition to raising awareness, the department also is in charge of keeping things running during times of "normal" disasters. Here in Florida, that's hurricanes and tornadoes. He gave us tips on readiness, which is something we do hear all the time as the season approaches.

9-11 changed our lives.

Next time: Part 2. Motors.

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