By Capt. Stan Keeve, Commander, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam
Earlier this week I received a letter from concerned citizens living in base housing neighborhoods. We’re making arrangements to meet to discuss concerns, understand points of view, and share ideas and information.
I am very grateful to all of you who took the time to express your feelings about safety and security and timely notification in housing areas. Your willingness to speak out means you are committed to working together.
Over the past two weeks, we had two incidents. One involved a young person who reported being allegedly accosted by a stranger. The other was a full-on investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations into alleged possession of a hazardous material in a residence.
We take every security report seriously, and each is handled according to specific individual circumstances.
In the first incident last week, we quickly determined through multiple security agencies that there was no evidence to support the allegation and no need for a general alarm. Although we did respond to the event in time, we could have provided that detail more quickly via social media and in response to concerns raised by residents. Lesson learned.
In the second event, we provided ongoing information to residents, including at the scene of the investigation.
Here are some of the questions we ask before putting out a general advisory when there is suspicious activity in our neighborhoods:
• Is there an immediate danger to people?
• What kind of response do we initiate?
• When should we release information so it doesn’t impact the security department’s efforts?
• How can we achieve a balance — not causing unnecessary fear while still respecting and honoring the public’s right to know?
• What needs to be done to not compromise an investigation?
It should be noted that, unfortunately, some reports to Joint Base Security, although they are well meaning, do end up as false alarms. That being said, we assume all are real unless evidence proves otherwise. Furthermore, we cannot reveal specific security responses or techniques because it could tip our hands to those who would do us harm.
While there will be times we can’t give out information immediately, please rest assured that we will always err on the side of caution when a general warning to the community is truly warranted.
We’ve got your back! Protecting you and your family is a sacred responsibility for my team and me.
Because there is always room for improvement, I’m especially pleased to hear directly from residents. My security team and I want your suggestions, and we want your participation.
Several years ago when JBPHH dealt with what seemed to be a credible threat of attempted child abduction, the base came up with a program to promote heightened awareness and partnership: VEST – Vigilance, Engagement, Speed, Together.
It means reaching out to vigilant people willing to engage by calling 911 immediately (speed) when they see something suspicious and all of us working together.
I’d like to revisit this program in our base community and keep the lines of communication open. I think we all understand how tension and fear can grow in the absence of information. Let’s continue to work together!