iWatch lets public report suspicious behavior

LOS ANGELES Citing the recent Times Square bombing attempt where a tip from the public led police to a parked SUV full of explosives, the city of L.A. is expanding a new program that gives the public a way to report any type of suspicious behavior at the airport or any other public place.

Referring to /*LAX*/ as a top terrorist target, /*Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa*/ and /*police Chief Charlie Beck*/ introduced the expansion of iWatch to the airport during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

"Our city is faced with a new kind of threat in the 21st century that requires us to be vigilant of our communities," Villaraigosa said. "iWATCH not only provides an avenue to report suspicious activity, but more importantly, it involves and educates the public about suspicious activities and behaviors, not personal characteristics, that may be associated with terrorist activities."

The iWatch program was launched in October for residents to alert authorities to suspicious activity by phone or Internet. On Thursday, police and political leaders used fliers and posters to enlist help from people at LAX.

"One of the things that we want this program to do in addition is to educate people about the reality of the terrorist threat. It is not based on where a person was born. It is based on their ideology and based on how they feel about the United States," said Beck.

To report suspicious activity, people can call (877) A-THREAT or log onto www.iWATCHLA.org. Tips are reviewed by anti-terror experts, then entered into a database designed to find patterns and trends.

The city worked with community and religious organizations to put the program together.

"The public unfortunately sometimes reacts to hysteria and when they do, stereotypical images sometimes are the drivers for the reporting," said Salam Al-Marayati, Muslim Public Affairs Council. "We're working with the LAPD to ensure this program is affective in dealing with counter-terrorism."

However, some civil rights organizations have raised concerns it could lead to racial and religious profiling.

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