Ah, the holidays. A time of cheerful greetings and family reunions and people traveling and… increased concerns about security threats, especially in transits and airports. As much as we don’t want to think about it, the holiday season is often a time for increased vigilance and public safety efforts, as large crowds traveling to and fro make easy, impactful targets for bad actors.

Transits and airports are busy ramping up additional security measures to handle the increase in travelers and keep them safe. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that its officers are prepared to screen more than 40 million passengers and crew during the winter holiday period, and that they expect anywhere from 100,000 to 400,000 additional travelers at checkpoints nationwide each day from Dec. 15 through Jan. 2. To handle the increased passenger volume during the holiday travel season, TSA will have up to 1,400 additional officers working at the top 50 airports, along with 55 more canine teams on the job this year compared to 2016’s holiday season. According to their press release, “As efforts continue to raise the baseline for aviation security, those canine teams will help increase and expedite screening at more than 30 of the nation’s busiest airports. This increases aviation security by exposing all travelers in the checkpoint lines to the explosives detection dogs.”

North American transit agencies have been on high alert in the last week, especially due to the recent Port Authority attack in New York. They are also busy preparing for increased passengers, expanding service hours and adding transit officers and shifts. CNN recently wrote an article titled, “Holidays in New York: How safe is the subway?”, in which one transit passenger was quoted saying “There’s only so much you can do.” That’s true, but there is more that can be done. Both transits and airports can empower their passengers and employees to watch for and report suspicious behaviors by adopting mobile incident reporting with smartphones.

The truth is, while there are extra security measures in place, transits and airports are still missing a crucial piece. Very few are leveraging their most valuable security asset – the eyes and ears of passengers and employees. While holiday travelers are in a rush, they are less likely to stop and report something to police. Sometimes they’re unsure if what they have seen is a legitimate threat, and they wouldn’t dial 911 for such an incident. But when they do see something out of place – something that just doesn’t seem quite right or perhaps an incident like harassment of another passenger – the majority would like to tell someone, to alert authorities to take a closer look. When it is easy and discreet to report a concern – with just the push of a button in a See Say mobile app – people will help by reporting what the saw or overheard. 

Increasing K9s, officers and other security measures improves public safety, however it can be better. Public safety is a team sport.  Citizens and employees can each play an important role.  Harnessing the power of crowdsourcing can help to ensure that when people See Something, they Say Something.

Happy Holidays – stay safe!