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."