"If you see something, say something" is the new anti-terrorism, anti-mass shooting strategy being adopted by the State of Wisconsin. Governor Scott Walker is encouraging residents to contact law enforcement if they see anything "out of the ordinary"--as it could foil a planned attack. Unfortunately, this "citizen crimefighter" approach is overly-simplistic--and will likely lead to very unfortunate incidents.
As someone who monitors emergency scanner traffic all day, I can tell you there are a lot of people who are already "seeing something and saying something"--and sometimes it tells you a lot about our belief in one another. Let's start with "The caller reports a group of black men sitting in a car outside of a house and wants it checked out." What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard that? Was it "drug deal", "strong armed robbery" or "drive-by shooting incident"? And would the caller have been as quick to dial 911 if the group of men in the car had been white?
Or let's say it's a Sunday afternoon in September and you see a bunch of cars parked in front of the house across the street and white people heading in and out? You'd assume that the neighbors were having a Packers party--and you would never think to "say something". But what if at the same time on a Sunday you saw a bunch of cars parked across the street and "Muslim-looking people" were going inside? Would that make you think about "saying something"?
And who can forget the John Henson incident in Whitefish Bay? The employees of the jewelry store that refused to let him into the building without a police presence on site certainly "said something". As do all of the people who call police the second they see someone carrying a gun--even if that person was only bringing it from their vehicle to their house or vice versa--leading to lockdowns at schools in a five mile radius. People who own a lot of guns (legally) should expect regular visits from the cops as well because someone new saw their collection.
A lot of this comes from "hindsight being 20/20". A classic example is the flight training school in Florida that was attended by several of the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI talked to the instructors who said they did find it odd that these foreigners only wanted to learn how to fly the planes once they were in the air--and not learn how to take off or land them. And anyone spotting someone wearing a ski mask on 70-degree day in San Bernardino, California should probably dial 911 immediately.
In the meantime, let's keep our noses out of other people's business.