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Wanted: Nosy Neighbors

Fairfield Police Lt. James Perez talks to Patch about the need for vigilance.

If only a Mrs. Kravitz, that beloved busybody of “Bewitched,” lived in each and every Fairfield neighborhood.

“Most people in their own neighborhoods know their neighborhood better than the police. They know what’s not normal,” Lt. Jim Perez said.

Perez recently returned from a Homeland Security training course in New York City. The course taught Perez many things, much of which he can’t talk about for security reasons. However, the core message was, as the cliché goes, “If you see something say something.”

What works against common criminals works against terrorists - homegrown or foreign, Perez said. In two words: target hardening.

“All that means is making your home less attractive to a criminal. And that’s something you can take to the global level,” Perez said.

New York City and Boston receive millions of dollars in federal funding to help guard against terrorist attacks. Fairfield and other towns in the area simply don’t get that funding. That makes the corridor between the two cities more attractive to those who would do harm, Perez said.

So it’s no accident that in 2001, related to the attacks on the World Trade Towers, three of the 19 jet hijackers stayed in the Fairfield Motor Inn, or that in 2010 Faisal Shahzad, the so-called "Times Square Bomber", lived undetected in neighboring Bridgeport, Perez said.

“As a result, we need to collectively be more observant,” Perez said. “People are reluctant to call the police and that’s concerning to me. I would love to have a thousand Mrs. Kravitzes. Then we would never have a problem."

Since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has worked to step up airport security, Perez said. It has begun to follow the models establish by Israel and Great Britain, two nations with extensive experience fighting terrorism.

Perez said he’s aware some Americans don’t want to give up certain freedoms. And he recognized that it seems Americans are being asked to cede certain civil liberties, whether it’s being screened at the airport, or having bags and purses searched upon entering museums, to name just a couple of instances.

To that regard, Perez asked, “Are they really giving up civil liberties or are we enhancing your longevity so you can complain about civil liberties?”

In the end, the lieutenant said that Americans can’t be complacent and must become more vigilant and security mindful. If a person sees something suspicious, they need to report it.

“Forget the tasers and the guns," Perez said. “Information is our best weapon."

Kristie Coneys Kuhl August 11, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Lt. James Perez' disregard of civil liberties is shameful. I wonder how often he reads the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. I'm dismayed and hope his comments do not reflect the opinions of his colleagues.
Heather Dean August 11, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Lt. Perez isn't disregarding civil liberties, he's pointing out that the inconvenience and invasion of privacy we feel at the airport or other public venue doesn't outweigh the long-term value of safett (which leads to a whole other discussion). What he's saying is know your neighborhood and call the police when you see something. Call without hesitation when you see or hear something out of the ordinary. If they don’t know what’s happening, then there's a patrol car sent out to investigate. People take notice and that is the front line of our neighborhood security. It doesn't mean to start distrusting your neighbors, but to trust your gut--if it looks unusual then give the cops a call and let them talk a look.
Bluebird August 11, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Sorry, Heather, I think Kristie has it right -- trust has to be earned, and unless I saw something extremely serious I would think twice about inviting the Fairfield Police into my life. Painting those who find their methods and attitudes wanting as "complainers" is in extremely poor taste, and suggests that Perez has no understanding of why local residents might hesitate before giving the FPD a call.
Gerry Alessi August 18, 2011 at 02:05 PM
To Kristie and Bluebird.... It is time to pull your head out out of the sand. I manage the neighborhood watch program for the Stratfield part of town and Bluebird, your comment of not calling the police unless you saw something serious is whats wrong with our communties today. Chief MacNamara has stated many times,"If you see something just a little out of the normal, call us!" These words could not be more true or helpful! If you saw a man walking thru your neighbors yard would you call the police? If you saw a man walking down the street looking into cars, would you call the police? If you saw a man parked across from you house in his car all day, would you call the police? These may not seem serious, but they are and these are the things that are causing crimes in our neighborhoods today. If you answered no to any one of these questions then I definitely don't want you as a neighbor, You can stand behind the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and civil liberties all you want but thats not going to stop a man from breaking in your back door and taking a pocket book off your kitchen counter! I hope your neighbors feel differently than the 2 of you and keep and eye out for you both. Good Luck
BobRyffel September 23, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I reported 2 men on my street who ran right in front of my car as I left home at 3am. They were obviously up to no good. The police could not find them. That I can understand. But the police never bothered to call and tell me they had stolen my neighbor's car and then robbed a bank in Branford and pistol-whipped a teller. I only found out 3 months later when the FBI called me to ID them. Two men with guns were on my quiet little street, 6 feet from me. This was not important enough for a courtesy call. Thanks, I feel so safe now.
Fairfield Resident September 23, 2011 at 11:38 AM
The police are nothing more than Revenue Agents for the state.

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