MIAMI – Miami police announced Monday they will stage random shows of force at hotels, banks and other public places to keep terrorists guessing and remind people to be vigilant.
Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.
"This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.
The operations will keep terrorists off guard, Fernandez said. He said Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups plot attacks by putting places under surveillance and watching for flaws and patterns in security.
Police Chief John Timoney said there was no specific, credible threat of an imminent terror attack in Miami. But he said the city has repeatedly been mentioned in intelligence reports as a potential target.
Timoney also noted that 14 of the 19 hijackers who took part in the Sept. 11 attacks lived in South Florida at various times and that other alleged terror cells have operated in the area.
Both uniformed and plainclothes police will ride buses and trains, while others will conduct longer-term surveillance operations.
"People are definitely going to notice it," Fernandez said. "We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."
Howard Simon, executive director of ACLU of Florida, said the Miami initiative appears aimed at ensuring that people's rights are not violated.
"What we're dealing with is officers on street patrol, which is more effective and more consistent with the Constitution," Simon said. "We'll have to see how it is implemented."
Mary Ann Viverette, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the Miami program is similar to those used for years during the holiday season to deter criminals at busy places such as shopping malls.
"You want to make your presence known and that's a great way to do it," said Viverette, police chief in Gaithersburg, Md. "We want people to feel they can go about their normal course of business, but we want them to be aware."