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'Thousands of different threats from thousands of different people' | Suspicious behavior tips spike in NC

Suspicious behavior is generally considered anything that indicates preoperational planning linked to terrorism or criminal activity.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the midst of international concern, state records show agents in North Carolina investigated more suspicious behavior tips last year than any of the five years before.

The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation's Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAAC) reports the agency's received 231 tips since 2014 related to suspicious activity. 

Records show 65 of those tips came in 2019 -- up from 40 the year before. Suspicious behavior is defined as "observed behavior reasonably indicative of preoperational planning associated with terrorism or other criminal activity."

"Examples of suspicious activity include surveillance, photography of sensitive infrastructure facilities, site breach or physical intrusion, cyberattacks, testing of security, etc," SBI Public Information Director Anjanette Grube said.

SBI has said in recent years, its ISAAC team has helped prevent activity. While some tips went unfounded, others led to further investigation.

"When we receive a tip we vet the information and provide it to the proper jurisdiction for them to determine if further investigative action is warranted," Grube said. "Some have led to further investigative actions."

While records show some are reporting suspicious behavior to state agents, others like Veryan Khan are keeping tabs online.

"I'm the fly on the wall -- I watch," the editorial director of the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC) said. "I monitor militant chatter online day in and day out."

Khan spends her days analyzing encrypted channels for private businesses and government agencies as part of her role with TRAC. The organization tracks terrorist chatter. 

She said that chatter equates to daily threats.

"Of course you should be concerned, but this is nothing," Khan said. "I watch this day in and day out, thousands of different threats from thousands of different people."

While tracking an individual threat is important, she said linking multiple threats as a trend is the key to differentiating the signal from the noise.

The SBI knows every tip matters and continues to ask the public for help. The state urges people to report suspicious behavior by calling (888) NC ISAAC, saying "Protect Us All Make the Call."

SBI said it doesn't know why the number of reports increased last year, but said "a number of variables" likely played a role.

Suspicious Activity Reporting By Year:

  • 2014 - 6
  • 2015 - 20
  • 2016 - 40
  • 2017 - 60
  • 2018 - 40
  • 2019 - 65 (as of 12/17/19)

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