LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If someone had reported a truck driving around a federal building on Easter or someone had called attention to suspicious men getting their pilots’ licenses, perhaps the Oklahoma City bombing or 911 could have been averted, said First Observer director of training Jeff Beatty.
Beatty, who formerly was with the FBI and who has worked for several government entities in the area of counter-terrorism, said when truckers are learning to spot suspicious activity on the road, at a truck stop or even at a local terminal, they should remember the DLR rule. DLR stands for “Don’t look right.”
Beatty was on hand at the Mid-America Trucking Show here along with First Observer trainers Jeana Hysell and Terry W. Barrett. They were signing up truckers to join the First Observer program, which has been in place for about two years and is an extension of the Highway Watch program.
It’s a national safety and security program that utilizes the skills and “savvy” of transportation professionals to observe, assess and report suspicious activities by calling (888) 217-5902.
To be a participant, all a commercial driver or other transportation professional needs to do is fill out some personal identification information and watch a video. They’re then given an I.D. number and that number pops up if they call the hotline and make a report.
One reason for that, said Hysell, is so the call center operators can assess if the person reporting the activity needs help.
Truckers can also go to www.FirstObserver.com and fill out the pertinent information.
Persons who were part of the old Highway Watch program need only to watch a short video; first-timers watch a 45-minute video that goes into more detail on what sorts of anomalies to look for.
The films deal with what can be termed suspicious activity: for example, a person taking pictures of chlorine-filled rail cars or taking pictures of the underside of a bridge doesn’t fit the profile of the average tourist. Therefore it belongs in the DLR category, Beatty explained.
First Observer is actually a grant shared by five entities providing training, management of the call center, driver outreach and other services. Included are the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which was kind enough to give the First Observer trainers booth space at MATS, and the Teamsters.
Beatty said the program has resulted in a number of disruptions of terrorist activity, in which a member of the FBI or other law enforcement organization knocks on doors and asks questions, thus “disrupting” whatever terrorist activity is going on, as well as leading to several cases that are currently under investigation.
“Never be afraid to look ridiculous” by calling and reporting something, he said, adding that the person who calls the hotline only needs to observe the activity, assess it and then report it; that person should not engage in illegal activity such as breaking and entering to further observe, nor should they put themselves in any danger. And, he said, calling the hotline doesn’t replace calling the local authorities in a 911 call.
Dorothy Cox of The Trucker staff may be contacted to comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.