21st Century Version of Neighborhood Watch Engages Communities in Fight Against Terrorism

October 3, 2009

Denver, Colorado:  Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton, acting in his capacity as President of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, unveils the community component of a national terrorism-prevention program.

Today, October 3, 2009, at the annual Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA) meeting and in conjunction with the Annual International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, LAPD Chief William J. Bratton unveiled the latest tool in the fight against terrorism, iWATCH.  The program, says Bratton, “is the 21st century version of Neighborhood Watch.   iWATCH is designed to enable members of the public to help protect their communities by identifying and reporting suspicious behaviors that have been known to be used by terrorists.  iWATCH is the next evolution in an integrated terrorism-prevention plan that works in conjunction with the Suspicious Activity Reporting System.”

In the months and years following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies overhauled their processes for responding to threats of terrorism.  The sheer number of local governments created a unique challenge for capturing usable information.  Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) was developed by the LAPD’s Counter Terrorism and Criminal Intelligence Bureau (CTCIB) in 2007.  The SAR program sets standards for reporting, categorizing and forwarding information obtained by line-level officers while ensuring that fundamental privacy and civil liberty protections are recognized and implemented appropriately.  

Police officers are trained to recognize behaviors and activities with possible links to terrorism.  Established in December 2008, the National SAR initiative was launched in 12 major agencies in locations such as: Los Angeles, Miami Dade, Boston, Chicago, Albany New York, Virginia, Las Vegas, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Washington DC, and Maryland.  The National SAR Initiative established a unified and integrated approach for all agencies, with consistent and clear intra-agency policies.   

iWATCH was developed to complement SAR as law enforcement cannot be everywhere and see everything.  iWATCH adds another tool to assist an agency’s predictive and analytical capability by educating community members about specific behaviors and activities that they should report.  “An alert community can act as a deterrent to terrorism, and an educated and trained public can feel more in control of their lives if they partner with law enforcement in the fight against terrorism,” said Bratton.  

iWATCH was developed under the direction of LAPD Commander Joan T. McNamara, who credits a broad range of volunteers, including Reserve Officers, for creating a program that can be used in any community anywhere in the United States.  “iWATCH was made possible by countless volunteer hours by incredibly talented people,” said McNamara.  “iWATCH and its training component were developed with the input from civil liberties and advocacy groups.”        

The iWATCH program is designed to be easily adopted by law enforcement agencies nationwide.  The marketing materials, which include the iWATCH brand, a community training video, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), brochures and posters, can be modified to reflect any particular city or community, and create an iconic image that can become the umbrella program for the nation.  

“Any street cop will tell you that crime prevention occurs best at the local level and terrorist-related crime prevention is no different,” said Chief Bratton. “The problem has always been that individuals have varying thresholds at which they feel compelled to notify authorities when the activity is not overtly terrorist related.  The iWATCH program is a giant leap toward overcoming this problem and literally provides millions of new eyes and ears in the terrorism prevention effort.”  

Each city or agency can create its own iWATCH website where the public can learn more about the program, educate the public on specific behaviors and activities, download videos and brochures, and set up a reporting process.  

For more information contact LAPD Media Relations Section at 213-485-3586.