By Dana Treen
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Sheriffs in 13 Northeast Florida counties announced an online system Thursday for residents to report suspicious activity they think may be terrorism-related.
Individuals can make reports online to any one of the counties from Nassau to Alachua that are part of the iWATCH program.
The site provides examples of red flags to watch for, such as people with an unusual interest in building plans or who are purchasing materials useful in bomb making. Important places to watch include hobby stores and dive shops.
Those making reports must provide their name and contact information.
“This is not like Crime Stoppers, where people report crimes,” Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford said, referencing a reward-based system for solving crimes that allows anonymity.
For iWATCH, people are less likely to be targeted by rumors or malicious accusations. Also, it gives investigators the opportunity to further interview the person reporting the activity.
“It’s always a concern that someone may be setting up a neighbor,” Rutherford said.
Reports entered in the iWATCH system are sent to the individual counties through a central clearing house. It is also passed to other counties, in case the information can be connected to something similar or related. The program was set up using a $150,000 state grant and piggybacks on an existing information-sharing system law enforcement uses now.
The sites combine iWATCH with the county name, or in Jacksonville’s case the city, to direct the report. The site for Jacksonville is www.iwatchjax.com.
Other counties in the program are: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Flagler, Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns and Union.
“The majority of citizens want to do what’s right,” Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell said at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement offices in Jacksonville where the program was announced.
Reprinted with permission from Jacksonville.com