The Hennepin County Sheriff's Office has launched a private-sector partnership to improve information sharing and the reporting of suspicious activity.
The initiative will be modeled after the New York Police Department's successful "Shield" program, a clearinghouse for crime alerts, threat updates, training and latest offerings from counterterrorism experts. The sheriff's office is the 10th law enforcement agency to start its own Shield program and will become of an affiliate member of the NYPD Shield.
"The Sheriff's Office Shield network is a front-line strategy for protecting residents against public safety threats both large and small," Sheriff Rich Stanek said Thursday. "The ability to quickly and effectively share crime trend information with our private-sector security partners gives us another prevention tool to ensure the highest level of safety and security for the residents of Hennepin County."
His office has been working on the program for a year, and there is no cost to participate, Stanek said. Several other law enforcement agencies around the country, including Seattle, have adopted their own Shield network, creating a national network for communicating national crime trends. The NYPD Shield consists of nearly 17,000 members at 6,800 organizations, and the sheriff's office will be able to take advantage of its crime analysts.
The Shield will enhance the sheriff office's already solid working relationship with the private sector. A website has been set up for new businesses or groups to apply for the Shield. The banner reads: Countering Terrorism Through Information Sharing. Stanek emphasized that the program won't violate the public's civil rights or privacy.
"After more recent events, the need to continue to be vigilant is imperative to the safety and security of our society. Private security professionals truly are the eyes and ears of the community," the website reads.
The Mall of America, which has 40 million visitors per year and 15,000 employees, will be part of the Shield program. Others include Thrivent Financial, Best Buy, Ameriprise Financial and Xcel Energy.
"We are excited and thrilled to take part in the Shield program," said Spencer Fenton from the Mall of America security department. "Since opening in 1992, safety and security of our guests, tenants and employees has always been a top priority for us."
Anthony Sussman of the Jewish Community Relations Council noted the recent threats to community centers in St. Paul, St. Louis Park and across the United States make the Shield program indispensable. He said reports of anti-Semitism continue to rise in the Twin Cities.
"The Jewish community deeply appreciates the resources, expertise and concern that local, state, federal law enforcement have committed to addressing anti-Semitic incidents," he said.
Michael Rozin, a former security employee with the Israeli government who now operates a security consulting business in the Twin Cities, said he will also be working with Shield. The sheriff's office made him a volunteer special deputy, which allows him to work more closely with licensed peace officers.
"This is an important initiative," he said. "We should all be proactive when we see suspicious activity."
If private sector security partners are interested in applying for membership, they can do so by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.