Tools and Strategies

Guide to Detecting Surveillance of Jewish Institutions

Jewish institutions are often called upon to “be alert” for suspicious activity. This brief guide is designed to help you do that.

1. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything unusual or suspicious and call law enforcement immediately if you come across something. Trust your instincts. If something strikes you as being out of place or problematic, call the police immediately.

2. Unusual behavior, suspicious packages and strange devices should be promptly reported to the police or security personnel.

3. Requests for information, particularly about security or procedures for your building, should also be promptly reported.

4. Report surveillance immediately. Watch for people who*:

  • Record data about your institutions by sketching, note taking, videotaping, or taking pictures
  • Sit in a vehicle for an extended period of time, including after regular business hours.
  • Loiter near your facility or in the lobby of your facility.
  • Arrive at your facility without prior notification (may claim to be contractors or service technicians, etc.)
  • Attempt to deliver packages or other items to an office or to a specific person.
  • Attempts to bypass your security, even “accidentally” walking past a check in desk.
  • Appear to be measuring distances in stride.
  • Are uncooperative, dismissive or pretend not to understand what you are talking about if challenged by a representative of your institution.

*Of course, many of these activities are perfectly consistent with innocent behavior. Adopted in part from Pennsylvania Governor's Office of Homeland Security.

Surveillance may include an attempt to “probe” your security, for example:

  • An attempt to remove property from an office or a facility without proper authorization.
  • Leaving unattended packages in or around facilities to see how they are dealt with.
  • Acting uncooperatively, dismissively or pretending not to understand what you are talking about if challenged by a representative of your institution.
  • Attempts to bypass your security, even “accidentally” walking past a check in desk.

6. Pay attention to details. What seems unimportant to you may prove to be important to law enforcement.

7. There is a natural temptation to explain away inappropriate behavior and not report it. Resist that temptation, and feel comfortable in approaching law enforcement to explain why you are suspicious. Even if you think you might be wrong, remember that it is law enforcement’s job to filter out good information from bad. At the same time, institutions should ensure that all staff members and constituents feel comfortable reporting suspicious activities to their superiors.

8. Report even minor concerns. You do not know what else has been reported and whether your “small” detail fits into a larger puzzle.

9. If you see suspicious behavior, do not confront the individuals involved.

10. Consistent with your personal safety and institution’s policy, take a picture and/or take a note of the details using the SALUTE method:

  • S - Size (Jot down the number of people, gender, ages, and physical descriptions)
  • A - Activity (Describe exactly what they are doing)
  • L - Location (Provide exact location)
  • U - Uniform (Describe what they are wearing, including shoes)
  • T - Time (Provide date, time, and duration of activity)
  • E - Equipment (Describe vehicle, make, color etc., license plate, camera, etc)

11. Ensure that your institution’s rules and procedures dealing with who gets into your facility are sufficient and are being implemented (“access control”).

12. More generally:

  • Ensure that security devices that you have are working and are used. This includes ensuring that your outdoor lights are working and used as designed, your door and window locks are functioning and locked, your alarm system is functioning and turned on, and that any precautions you use to secure your computer systems are in place and up-to-date.
  • Ensure that your staff knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
  • Practice your security procedures, reviewing with all personnel their role in security. For instance, if vigilance has slipped in mail and package delivery safety procedures, now is the time to revisit this area.
  • If you have not done so, this is an excellent opportunity to invite your local law enforcement to your institution to discuss security. ADL can help you make these contacts if you do not already have them.

13. We also strongly recommend that you consult the guidelines and advisory materials on the ADL web site at

Security awareness needs to be part of your culture each and every day in order to be effective. If you have not established security policies and procedures for your institution—including training all staff—please contact the ADL office so that we can assist you in making sure that your institution remains safe for all who enter it.