(FBI video)

Video Trains Car Rental Employees on Red Flags to Spot Potential Vehicle Attack Threats

A new video that gives car-rental employees a scenario-based example of how to flag a potential vehicle attacker underscores that “an informed and observant public is our best partner in hometown security,” said the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

The video “Partners in Prevention: Vehicle Rentals and Vehicle Ramming” was produced by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration in conjunction with the Truck Renting and Leasing Association and the American Car Rental Association, private-sector entities that have previously collaborated with homeland security agencies to help their members identify suspicious behavior from a customer who may intend to use a car or truck rental for nefarious purposes.

In the 11-minute video, a man is shown watching a parade from a minivan with a handgun and rifle on the front seat. He accelerates and the video cuts to a black screen as he barrels toward pedestrians.

In the scenario at the car rental company, the man throws up several red flags: He attempts to use a temporary driver’s license without a second form of identification. He says he’s from Sacramento, but doesn’t seem to know details about the city when pressed in casual conversation by the clerk. He tries to rent the largest, heaviest vehicle, and asks the clerk how many gallons of fuel a minivan can hold. He tries to pay with cash instead of a credit card. He asks probing questions about the parade and how many people are expected.

The car rental employee ends up consulting with her manager, the rental is denied and authorities are alerted.

“People who are directly interacting with consumers can spot red flags that could indicate a potential threat, if they are trained on what to look for,” Assistant Director for Infrastructure Security Brian Harrell told HSToday. “CISA has been collaborating with our federal partners and industry stakeholders for the last few years to raise awareness of vehicle ramming and other threats to soft targets and crowded places. The FBI, ACRA and TRALA have been key partners, and the FBI’s video is an important new tool in the unified federal and industry efforts to increase awareness about threats to soft targets and engage people who can directly help reduce these threats.”

According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism, in 2016 and 2017 there were 19 vehicle-ramming attacks across the globe, killing 127 and wounding more than 650 people.

Michael Sullivan, the FBI’s assistant director of the Office of Private Sector, notes in the video that “regardless of whether your company rents cars, trucks, short-term rentals, or specialty vehicles, you, the front-line employee, play an integral role in helping to identify and protect our nation against terrorism.”

“This video will show you basic indicators, or tripwires, to watch for that’ll help you recognize suspicious behavior that might be part of pre-operational planning for a terrorist attack,” Sullivan said. “You’ll also learn how to gather information on suspicious individuals and how to report it to your company’s management or to law enforcement.”

Harrell told HSToday that while this particular video is intended “for a limited industry audience,” CISA also has a video on vehicle ramming that is more broadly relevant to all partners.

The Vehicle Ramming Attack Mitigation video “provides information to help mitigate potential vehicle ramming incidents and offers insightful technical analysis from public- and private-sector subject-matter experts,” he said. “It also leverages real-world events and provides recommendations to help organizations and individuals protect themselves against a potential attack.”

Additional resources on soft-target security can also be found on the DHS Hometown Security site.

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a weekly columnist for the New York Observer and a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15 and Washington Bureau Chief for PJ Media. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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