Renewed focus on 'see something, say something' campaign ahead of 9/11 anniversary

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Wednesday, September 7, 2022
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People who travel by air know exactly what to expect when heading to the airport. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 21 years ago changed flying forever.

People who travel by air know exactly what to expect when heading to the airport. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 21 years ago changed flying forever.

Nico Melendez, a retired Transportation Security Administration spokesperson, said travelers now have to wait at checkpoints before passing through security.

"If you think back to 9/11, the 9/11 terrorists all started at small airports like John Wayne. They went to bigger airports like Newark or Boston, so every airport in the system is important because they all feed into one another," Melendez said.

The Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, was created to screen all passengers and bags, and at John Wayne Airport, it's no different.

"On 9/11, 3% of checked bags were screened for explosives, only 3%. Today, and shortly after 9/11, 100% of bags were screened for explosives."

Melendez now works for ReadyOC which educates residents on the importance of the "If you see something, say something" campaign.

He encourages everyone to keep a watchful eye for anything that may look suspicious.

"In the airports see something, say something was initially very important because there were so many passengers with new procedures that people were leaving bags, leaving things unattended and somebody needed to say something," Melendez said. "We didn't have the staff to do it. The airlines didn't have the staff to do it so we relied on the public."

However, more than two decades after the 9/11 attacks threats have shifted online.

Alberto Martinez, director of Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, said social media and the internet are being used in new ways to target the public and could put people at risk.

"You don't have to drive anywhere anymore in terms of cybercrimes," Martinez said. "You can be at home."

"Anything you see in terms of scams, ransomware, clicking any suspicious button or link... share that information because... you may be a victim but somebody else may be a victim and sharing that across wide it is very important for us."

Security officials said if you do happen to see something that looks out of place, whether it's in person or online, it's crucial that you report it to law enforcement immediately.