How to Fix See Something Say Something to Enhance Public Safety

October 25, 2017

What is great about See Something Say Something (SSSS) campaigns is how heavily they are advertised and promoted. Nearly everyone – especially in urban areas – has seen multiple posters, videos, TV commercials or heard audio public-service-announcements (PSA). SSSS is plastered all over airports and transit systems because public transportation is a known high-value target of terrorists.


The SSSS message is easy to understand. We know what is being asked of us: if we see or hear something suspicious, report it to authorities or to someone who can do something about it. This is now accepted as our civic duty, as the rise in attacks has made it necessary for the public to be directly involved in public safety.


But how do we do SSSS? This is where the unfulfilled potential of SSSS campaigns strikes a nerve. Posters and announcements usually tell people to call 911 or tell a policeman if you have seen or heard suspicious activity. These reporting methods are too overbearing on the general public. People will not comply if it puts them at risk or inconveniences them. People are in a hurry, especially when they are in transit, coming or going somewhere. No one wants to miss their train, bus or plane.


Sub-911 incidents need too be reported, too


“Sub-911” incidents are things that may not seem like an immediately obvious security or safety threat, like suspicious activity. Unless it is a really serious incident, such as a car crash, bullets are flying or an explosion, people don’t want to call 911 and be interviewed on a recorded line by a police dispatcher. People know that once you make that call, you are ‘in it’. You will be questioned and perhaps asked for your personal information as part of the recorded data, so police can contact you. Just speaking to a police operator can seem intimidating to some.


Texting a tip to a phone number is not much better. This can only work if the person remembers the phone number of which to send the text message.


And asking people to physically approach a police officer or TSA employee can seem even more daunting. As a result, a large number of people will resist taking action and reporting something, even though they know they should. The public misses out on a chance to enhance public safety.


The public needs a quick and discreet way to submit information to authorities. A mobile SSSS app with the ability to submit tips anonymously is ideal. No fuss, no muss. Ideally the app will allow the person to submit their tip in 20 seconds or less, send location details of where the problem is, and allow a photo or video to be included.


Many people don’t want to talk on the phone and prefer instead to use messaging services, such as Apple’s iMessage or texting, to communicate. ELERTS mobile app allows the user to submit an information-rich incident report to authorities in under 20 seconds. The location of the incident, a photo or video and a description of the problem can be sent to a dispatcher who can assist.


For sub-911 issues, such as suspicious activity or minor crimes, people generally do not want to make a phone call and speak to a police officer on a recorded line. They much prefer to submit a data message, with the option to send their message anonymously. Easy breezy – a person who sees a security or safety issue can do their civic duty, reporting it with ELERTS app, and go on about their business whether traveling to their work or home.


See Something Say Something campaigns must include the simplicity and anonymity with which the public can report suspicious behavior. People do not want to be inconvenienced, but they generally do want to do the right thing. ELERTS mobile apps make it easy to do so. The more eyes and ears, the better. Together, we can make See Something Say Something campaigns really work to keep us all safer in an increasingly dangerous world.


Crowdsourced Situational Awareness

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