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Sheriff DeWees: If you see something, say something

James DeWees hugs his mother Joan after being sworn in as Carroll County Sheriff during a ceremony at Carroll Community College, in Westminster.
James DeWees hugs his mother Joan after being sworn in as Carroll County Sheriff during a ceremony at Carroll Community College, in Westminster. (KEN KOONS/STAFF PHOTO / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

With the recent events in San Bernardino, California, Paris and other cities throughout the world, I felt compelled, as your elected sheriff, to remind readers to be vigilant and to please, if you see something, say something. Before the San Bernardino massacre at a county social services building, most of us would have felt fairly comfortable that Carroll County would not be a primary target for any known terrorist assault. San Bernardino proved that a terrorist who is radicalized in our country only needs to find a location with a large gathering, and in Carroll County, we certainly have that.

It appears that the individuals that perpetrated the cowardly act in California were self-radicalized and used social media to proclaim their allegiance to ISIS just before they committed their terrorist acts. It is not uncommon for an individual or individuals to leave a manifesto of sorts before they commit their acts. In fact, most cases in which a terrorist act of violence or school/workplace shooting has taken place, including most of the incidents in the U.S., someone knew something that might have prevented the incident — or at least alerted law enforcement to investigate the individual — before the incident took place.

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I've read many opinions, personal and political, on how to isolate or stop potential terrorists from entering our country and acquiring the means to commit violent attacks. From eliminating all guns and stricter gun laws, to registering Muslims, and everything in between; most people have an opinion on how this can be stopped or minimized. For the record, California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, and their laws did not stop the male shooter from purchasing a weapon or obtaining one legally. Also, it is a U.S. citizen's constitutional right to bear arms. And registering everyone who proclaims their Muslim religion not only violates the constitutional right to freedom of religion, but is reminiscent of some of the worst practices of past fascist and communist governments.

I truly understand the fear that everyone has after the recent incidents, but falling prey to these sorts of notions is exactly what the people who despise our way of life want us to do. There is a way of potentially thwarting these violent acts. I'm asking — even imploring — that if you see, read or know that some sort of violent act is about to take place, or if you have a feeling that something doesn't seem right with someone you live with or are neighbors with, please contact law enforcement. We take all complaints seriously and will look into them with the utmost integrity and within the constitutional safeguards afforded to all U.S. citizens.

The men and women who protect and serve every day in Carroll County have a strong working relationship with one another, as well as with our state and federal law enforcement partners. We communicate with and provide information to intelligence fusion centers, and work actively to verify the validity of information coming to our attention. But we can't do this without the public's help. Now more than ever, it's important for citizens to be actively involved in advising law enforcement on what they see regarding potential threats and acts of violence. Like the attacks on 9/11, recent events have changed the way we go about business on a daily basis. In order for us to live in a free society we must be willing to speak out and get involved when we have vital information on potential attacks that threaten our very freedoms. After all, we are the "land of the free and the home of the brave."

Jim DeWees is the Carroll County Sheriff. Reach him at jdewees@ccg.carr.org.

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