DAYTON — See something, say something.
That simple message was the primary theme during a presentation to the Northern Chamber Alliance by Sgt. Gary Mohn of the Dayton Airport Police.
Members of the Alliance got a behind the scenes look at how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) seeks to stay a step ahead of terrorist and other threats at the Dayton International Airport.
The Northern Chamber Alliance consists of the Huber Heights, Northmont, Vandalia-Butler, Brookville, and Trotwood Chambers of Commerce.
Mohn told members that instead of focusing on a person’s appearance, people should notice their behavior. To drive that point home, he showed the audience pictures of people including one who resembled Osama Bin Laden but was actually a surgeon in the U.S. Army. Another picture looked to be what many consider a clean cut, average person but was actually an accomplice in the Oklahoma City bombing, Terry Nichols.
“We are too worried about what people look like instead of watching what they are doing,” said Mohn.
To illustrate the point, he reminded the audience that a neighbor of the San Bernardino shooters had noticed odd behavior, but was afraid to call authorities due to fear of being labeled a racist.
“Listen to that gut feeling,” said Mohn. “It could be nothing, but I’d rather it be nothing and have someone say something than something bad happen that could have been prevented but no one said anything.”
Mohn also answered a common criticism of the TSA – that the agency is using enhanced screening on the wrong people. He showed a picture of a 93 year old woman caught in Arizona who was smuggling drugs across the border in a vest that looked similar to a bomb vest.
“What does a terrorist look like?” he asked. “You see the same things we do on television. We don’t know what a terrorist looks like. It could be a child, a grandmother. We have to treat everyone the same we because we just don’t know.”
On display were tools, knives, and other items removed from carry-on bags at the Dayton airport as well as common household items that could be used to conceal explosives or have been in other parts of the world. Those in attendance were also shown how a checked bag is chosen for search and tested for explosives.
Mohn said the intent of presentations like this is to heighten awareness and to encourage people to be aware of their surroundings in order to keep the traveling public safe.
“Pay attention to what goes on around you,” said Mohn. “Recognize the signs and be able to call someone and tell them what you saw. We are trying to create a harder target. We want to accommodate passengers, but we also want a safe airport.”
Anyone who sees something suspicious are urged to call local law enforcement or they can call the TSA hotline at 877-647-4683.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.