In the wake of the New York and New Jersey bombings, we are reminded again of the security mantra, “see something, say something.” What does that really mean? Are you supposed to literally report everything you see?
The “see something, say something” security reminder boils a complicated idea down to four words. So what does is it actually mean?
If you are attending a concert, you are going to see a lot of things. If “something” means “anything,” calls will overload 9-1-1 operators with not particularly useful reports.
On the other hand, “something” cannot be so specific in meaning as to overlook the unexpected. The phrase does not say “If you see an unattended bag, say something.” If it did, the public would look for only bags and miss other potential threats.
“Something” refers to activity or objects that strike you as suspicious, out of place or potentially threatening. It is the thing that is out of place, such as a man in a trench coat on a crowded, sunny beach. It is the stranger watching a building’s entrances day after day. It is the tourist photographing sites when no other tourist ever visits.
We cannot predict every scenario that rises to the level of “something.” Nor would we want to. Bad actors are developing new “somethings” every day as we grow aware of prior tactics.
“See something, say something” asks you to trust your gut instinct and not worry if it’s a false alarm. The police would rather sort out confusion than respond to a tragedy.