Ethnicity and Suspicious Activity Reporting

Homeland Security Operations Morning Brief (HSOMB) Statistics

posted 01/25/2006

I've written a number of articles with footnotes, but this is, insofar as I can recall, the first one to come with warnings and caveats at the beginning. The necessity for this impoliteness is indicated by the emotionally-weighted nature of the subject of this article, and the strength of feeling it generates in both those who see what they want, and don't want, to see therein.

In short, I'm speaking of race and racial profiling.

Few subjects are so controversial, so guaranteed to cause excitement and furor. Few subjects are so taboo in polite, present-day society that I hesitate to tread there; this is one such.

In the interests of prolonging my time here on Terra, and in avoiding further deluges of hate mail and phone calls, and in not unnecessarily opening myself for (unfounded) accusations of bigotry, I am refraining from commenting on the information herein any further than I have already done elsewhere. I simply wish to present some statistics, without interpretation or analysis, so that as many people as possible will be able to view them without their being upset by politics or other emotional matters. Most people, I believe, will not be surprised, but will see - for better or for worse - exactly what they expect to see.

First, in the interests of openness, a few words on the methodology used to compile these statistics. They are taken from (often heavily-) redacted copies of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) publication the Homeland Security Operations Morning Brief (HSOMB), about which I've written elsewhere. The totals list only individuals or groups of individuals reported in HSOMBs as engaging in non-criminal but "suspicious" behaviour, which includes suspicious photography and other forms of suspected surveillance, as well as other activities. For simplicity and to ensure the resulting statistics are accessible to laymen, certain compromises were made in the collection and aggregation of data. The categorization of an individual or individuals as "Middle Eastern" includes those described as Middle Eastern men and women, those of possible or suspected Middle Eastern descent or nationality, those wearing clothing (tobs, headscarves, et cetera) of a Middle Eastern nature, and those described as nationals of named Middle Eastern nations. It also includes those described as dark skinned, swarthy, arabic, or arabic-looking. The categorization of an individual or individuals as "other" includes those described as of a specific ethnicity not Middle Eastern, with individuals described as Mexican nationals considered Hispanic, and "white" and "caucasian" considered synonymous. The categorization of an individual or individuals as "unknown" includes those for whom no ethnicity information is listed (or not redacted), and includes a number of individuals identified as nationals of various countries other than those in the Middle East or Mexico, including individuals identified as U.S. citizens but for whom no ethnicity information is given. The categorization of "Middle Eastern" should be understood to encompass incidents where individuals as described above were accompanied by parties of other or indeterminate ethnicity; the categorization of "other" should be understood to encompass incidents were individuals as described above were accompanied by parties of indeterminate ethnicity; and the categorization of "other" is not meant to imply or suggest that the individual or individuals involved were of identical nationality or other demographic information.

One final warning - as should be apparent to just about everyone, suspicious activity happens everywhere, everyday, by people of every and any ethnicity and appearance. However, a tiny percentage of that gets reported to law enforcement, and a much, much tinier percentage of that is considered - using whatever criteria may be applicable - sufficiently noteworthy to be included in the HSOMB. Attempting to characterize this information in any other light would be, in a word, misleading, perhaps dangerously so.

So, without further ado, the statistical summary for non-criminal suspicious activity, as reported in DHS HSOMBs between 01 September and 31 December, 2004:

One-hundred sixteen (116) such incidents were reported during the time in question.

Thirty-seven (37) involved persons of indeterminate or unknown ethnicity. (32%)

Twenty-one (21) involved persons of named ethnicity, including those accompanying unknown or indeterminate persons, as follows:
Thirteen (13) involved persons described as "white" or "caucasian". (11%)
Four (4) involved persons described as "hispanic" or "Mexican". (3.5%)
Three (3) involved persons described as "asian".(2.5%)
One (1) involved a person described as "black".(1%)

Fifty-eight (58) involved persons described as "Middle Eastern" or of Middle Eastern appearance, as described above. (50%)


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