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Governor Cuomo Announces Completion of Over 900 Joint Counter Terrorism Exercises in New York State

"Operation Safeguard" Bolsters Security by Encouraging Early Reporting of Suspicious Activity by Businesses, Retail Establishments, Organizations and the Public

Governor Encourages Shoppers to be Mindful of Surroundings During Busy Holiday Season

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Counter Terrorism completed more than 900 "Operation Safeguard" counter terrorism exercises in 2017 at businesses and organizations across the state to test their suspicious activity reporting programs and counter terrorism plans. This represents a 31 percent increase in the number of locations tested in 2016.

"Protecting New Yorkers is our top priority, and these critical counter terrorism exercises help to prepare the public for dangerous situations that threaten public safety across this state," Governor Cuomo said. "Now more than ever, I urge New Yorkers to report any suspicious activity that they see to law enforcement. If you see something, say something."

In response to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Governor Cuomo directed the state's Office of Counterterrorism During his 2016 State of the State to increase the number of these exercises to better assess the ability of businesses throughout the state to recognize suspicious behavior and subsequently report it.

This year, more than 900 locations, including exercises at over 100 truck rental locations and five upstate airports, were assessed by nearly 100 law enforcement agencies and 350 personnel. Other locations included hardware stores, gun stores, large retailers, businesses that sell chemicals or components used in the construction of improvised explosive devices, hospitals, colleges and universities, transportation infrastructure, mass gathering sites and other locations that could be targeted by terrorists.

At each location, law enforcement personnel tested security protocols by engaging in "suspicious activity" such as searching for various chemicals and components used in improvised explosive devices, to determine if a business detected the nefarious activity and reported it. After each visit, homeland security, federal, state and local partners discussed the encounters with each location to point out successful actions and areas of improvement. In most instances, the activity was reported promptly and accurately, and when activity was not reported, follow up education by team members was well received and establishments visited said suspicious activity would likely be reported to law enforcement in the future.

Roger L. Parrino, Sr., Commissioner, New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, said, "We all have a role in reporting suspicious behavior and we all should take the time to notice unusual patterns and actions that don't fit in to our daily routines. While this is important 365 days of the year, this is especially important during the holidays when our guard is down and we are all preoccupied with the season's preparations. Be alert. Trust your instincts, if you see something, don't be afraid to say something. Don't be afraid to make the call."

State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "Law enforcement and first responders train and work together each day to prevent tragedies in our communities. We also look to the public to help us and do their part in the fight against terrorist attacks. We ask everyone to be aware, be alert, stay vigilant and report anything out of the ordinary. If you see something, say something. Information you share could save lives."

Special Agent in Charge Vadim D. Thomas, Federal Bureau of Investigation in Albany, said, "Experience has taught us that law enforcement and our communities must work together to identify actions that may involve terrorist related activity. We have seen numerous instances where information from the public leads to the identification of individuals and disruption of criminal activity. The more we can educate the public and test protocols, the safer our communities will be. I encourage the public to remain vigilant and advise law enforcement of any suspicious activity."

Bart R. Johnson, Federal Security Director, Transportation Security Administration said, "Given the current and evolving terrorist threat, we appreciate the efforts of New York State and their 'Operation Safeguard,' in exercising the observing and reporting of suspicious activity through 'See Something, Say Something.' This program makes a considerable impact in keeping all New Yorkers safe, particularly at airports."

Margaret Ryan, Executive Director, New York State Association of Chiefs of Police, said, " Experience has taught us that law enforcement and our communities must work together to identify actions of potential terrorist activities. Working hand in hand with our community and business partners re-enforces that everyone is part of See Something, Say Something and See Something, Send Something. Anyone can report suspicious activity at any time."

Peter R. Kehoe, Executive Director New York State Sheriffs' Association said, "These exercises are an important part of the counterterrorism plan in New York. We need an alert citizenry. That is how we can supplement our limited law enforcement personnel with the millions of eyes and ears of the general public. Through these exercises we keep the public thinking in terms of "See Something, Say Something."

Anyone can report suspicious activity to the New York State Terrorism Tips Line by calling 1-866-SAFE-NYS (1-866-723-3697), or as a photo or written note via the SeeSend mobile app. Visit Safeguard New York to learn more about how to spot suspicious activity, as well as the state's "See Something, Say Something" campaign. One phone call from an alert citizen or employee of a business who witnesses suspicious activity could alert law enforcement to a terrorist plot in the making.

About the Office of Counter Terrorism
Operated by the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, the Office of Counter Terrorism supports federal, state, local, tribal and private sector efforts to prevent, protect against and prepare for acts and threats of terrorism. The Office of Counter Terrorism is not a law enforcement agency, but works closely with the New York State Police and other law enforcement and public safety agencies in the fight against terrorism.

About the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services and its four offices - Counter Terrorism, Emergency Management, Fire Prevention and Control, and Interoperable and Emergency Communications -- provides leadership, coordination and support for efforts to prevent, protect against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from terrorism and other man-made and natural disasters, threats, fires and other emergencies.