Security experts say reporting suspicious behavior early key to preventing attacks

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 21:12:20-04

SALT LAKE CITY – In the wake of a deadly attack in Nice, France, Utah authorities are discussing ways to prevent similar incidents here.

Experts said once the truck used in the attack was in motion, it was likely too late as the attack was in the “execution phase.”

Randy Watts, a strategy expert and retired Utah National Guard Colonel, said this isn’t the first time a truck has been used in an attack.

“They've been used by the Irish Republican Army in Manchester, England,” Watt said. “They've been used literally around the world in a variety of different style attacks."

And he said this attack is not likely to be the last.

“Numbers of attacks, nature of the violence, use of weapons or violence is going to grow,” Watt said.

A truck can be stopped by a permanent barrier, but what about a temporary street closure for something like Pioneer Day?

“Everyone in the department is engaged on the 24th and 25th of July,” said Det. Dennis McGowan of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Salt Lake PD wants you to use your observation skills at events like Pioneer Day parades and other public gatherings. Warning signs include things like individuals who aren’t dressed for the weather.

“If someone is wearing an overcoat that doesn’t look like they should be wearing an overcoat, or bulky clothing, that type of thing—looks like they might be trying to conceal something underneath—you know, that's suspicious,” McGowan said.

And if you see something, even unusual loitering, let the authorities know.

“If they feel it's suspicious, we feel it’s suspicious, and we want people to come to us,” McGowan said. “It won’t be dismissed, it won't be disregarded.”

Watt said reporting suspicions works better if you can do it when the person is becoming radicalized or planning their attack.

“If you're defeating an attack of security on-site, you're in the execution phase,” Watt said. “We would've rather have done it somewhere back down the line.”

Watt said such efforts can make a huge difference.

“People who see something, and then say something to the right people, and then they begin to take a serious look," he said.

Experts say terrorism works when we become too afraid to go about our daily lives. Salt Lake City PD assures the public they will have officers all over for Pioneer Day next week, and they said Utahns should get out and enjoy the celebration.