A new fear: Stealing police badges
Officials in Washington, D.C. are on the lookout for theft of police uniforms and ID badges. The worry: That terrorists might use them to gain access to sensitive areas
By Elaine Shannon
With the war with Iraq prompting new fears of a retaliation at home, FBI officials in the Washington area are advising regional police and fire agencies to be on the lookout for thieves attempting to grab badges, uniform and other identifying documents. The fear is that these items could be sold on the black market to terrorists.
"It may be a joyride," says FBI assistant director Van Harp, head of the FBI''s big Washington field office, "or a ring that''s dealing in this kind of equipment. Or it could be terrorist-connected. We don''t know. But that''s the point of putting it out, because it is suspicious, and if it''s terrorist activity, the consequences could be grave."
There are many chilling scenarios. A terrorist could use a firefighter''s credentials and gear to gain access to a secure facility, such as a power plant, water pumping station, or government computer center, on the pretext of making an inspection. He could plant an explosive device then and there, or gain intelligence for a future attack. During an actual terrorist incident, a bad guy could use a badge to slip through a police line and detonate a bomb, killing kill the first responders. Even if the thieves turned out to common criminals, it was possible terrorists would find them — or had already found them — through the black market.
The Washington task force is on the lookout for other equipment heists and is seeking the license plates and other identifying data of suspicious characters who may be stalking local departments. "If there''s similar activity, then it''s not just an isolated theft," says Harp.