24 Hour Support: 888.705.0999

Media Center

Resources and Guides - Securing Knowledge

Report Suspicious Activity

By being more observant and reporting suspicious activity or behavior to the proper authorities, we can all help make our communities safer places to work and to live.

As our nation continues to face domestic and foreign terrorist threats, active shooter scenarios, and other public acts of violence, citizens are compelled to take a more active role in observation and reporting of suspicious activity or behavior.

What Is “Suspicious?”

The simple answer is that suspicious activity or behavior is anything that strikes you as wrong, abnormal, or unusual. While the examples cited in the following section are often predictors of trouble, crime and terrorism are constantly evolving. Trust what your intuition tells you.

Suspicious Activity

The following are examples of potential indicators of pre-operational surveillance or terrorist activity planning, particularly in public or high-profile environments. If you observe a person engaged in the following activities that seem incongruous with the circumstances and environment, reporting it could save lives.

Observations reported by alert  private security personnel, and by ordinary citizens, routinely enable  law enforcement to stop crimes  and prevent loss of life.

  • Staying in same place for a long time, in or out of a vehicle
  • Sitting in vehicle observing area closely
  • Driving around the same area frequently, speeding up, slowing down
  • Taking pictures or video of security cameras, loading docks, ingress and egress points, etc.
  • Trying to conceal the use of a camera or video camera
  • Making notes, diagrams, or sketches of an area
  • Attempting unauthorized access to facility areas
  • Asking unusual questions about or having a prolonged and unexplained interest in the facility, infrastructure, security
  • Making observations of or asking questions about facility HVAC (ventilation) systems
  • Observing security reaction drills or procedures at a facility

The following suspicious activities may indicate general criminal intent. If you see a person doing the following, notify the proper authorities.

  • Concealing an object or weapon
  • Going from car to car, trying doors, looking in windows
  • Going door to door or window to window
  • Using force to access a room or vehicle
  • Running and looking around furtively, especially at night, without apparent cause
  • Carrying valuable/unusual objects out of place with surroundings
  • Conducting transactions out of a vehicle, especially near park or school
  • Clearly not an employee in an "employees only" area
  • Acting strangely and wearing bulky clothing, especially out of season
  • Fleeing when noticed

Suspicious Behavior

A person intending to commit a crime or unauthorized activity may display certain suspicious behaviors that should not be ignored.

Suspicious Circumstances

  • Heavy sweating
  • Heavy breathing
  • Crying, laughing to self, exaggerated emotions
  • Fidgeting
  • Clock watching
  • Avoiding security
  • Repetitively touching face
  • Eyes wide open
  • Pacing
  • Exaggerated yawning
  • Rubbing hands
  • Isolated, unresponsive
  • Appearing to be in disguise
  • Patting upper body
  • Sudden change in appearance
  • Stiff posture, arms in at sides
  • Unresponsive, distant, inattentive
  • Trancelike state
  • A vehicle parked near the entrance or loading dock for a long time
  • A vehicle without license plates or identifying information
  • A vehicle parked with engine running
  • Suspicious bags/packages/items that are not where they belong
  • Unusual noises such as explosion, gunshots, screaming, fighting, dog barking – anything that sounds like possible foul play
  • Multiple false alarms or fictitious emergency calls to a location or multiple venues of the same type (possibly to test emergency response)
  • A person purchasing items in quantities higher than household use that could be used to construct an explosive device (hydrogen peroxide, acetone, gasoline, propane, or fertilizer) or storing large quantities of these items

Observe and Report

If you see something suspicious taking place, report that behavior or activity to local law enforcement — or in the case of emergency call 9-1-1.

When you observe suspicious activity or behavior, whether as a private citizen or as a security officer, your primary role is to be a good witness and thoroughly report as many details as you can. Suspicious behavior or activity does not always indicate ill intent or crime, but in the cases that do, your observations can make a difference by helping to deter, prevent, or respond to threats.

  • How many people were involved?
  • What gender, ethnicity and approximate age?
  • What about hair color and style, facial hair, tattoos, height, weight, scars, and other appearance details?
  • What does their clothing look like, including hat/shoes?
  • What is the person's location and if moving, what direction is the person moving in?
  • Did the person/people say anything?
  • Did the person/people seem to be under the influence of a substance?
  • Did the person/people appear to have any weapons?
  • Were there any vehicles involved? If yes, identify the make, model, year, color, condition, bumper stickers, license plate number, and any other distinguishing information.

Crisis Response Planning

Proactive planning for an emergency will result in a much smoother and safer response in the event of an attack or emergency situation. The following tips for security and facility managers help mitigate risk at facilities and events:

  • Develop and circulate a security and emergency response plan for the facility or event.
  • Establish strong communications plan to include interaction and integration with local law enforcement and public safety agencies.
  • Test communications equipment and redundant/backup systems.
  • Establish access control security measures and screening checkpoints.
  • Search vehicles requiring entrance into a secure zone
  • Ensure security and event personnel receive thorough training on threat awareness, emergency communication, response actions, and reporting of suspicious activity.
  • Coordinate, document, and distribute evacuation procedures
  • Identify and designate routes for emergency vehicles, including orderly entrance and exit arrangements.
  • Establish reporting/communication protocols and public awareness campaign for suspicious activity/behavior.
  • Remove objects from the facility or event which could conceal explosive devices (IEDs) (e.g., trash containers, crates, etc.)
  • Patrol facility and event areas with personnel and explosive detection canine teams.
  • Instate strong security presence at points of vulnerability.

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.

©2017 U.S. Security Associates