Businesses to receive training on suspicious purchases


PARKERSBURG — Local businesses will be receiving training on people making suspicious purchases, namely materials that could be used to create bombs readily available at home supply stores and other businesses. Wood County Assistant 911 and Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Mike Shook appeared before the Wood County Commission Monday to discuss the Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP), an initiative started by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and now has work being done at the state level.

Around 23 representatives from across the state, including Shook, traveled to Alabama to the National Center For Domestic Preparedness to train for the BMAP program to be able to train others on a local level, he said.”We are going to branch out into our area and go out and approach the people who run the stores, like Lowe’s, Home Depot, the beauty supply stores who sell these kinds of materials,” Shook said. We are going to ask these people to watch their customers. ”They will know the ones who haven’t always been their customers, the ones who come in and kinda make them nervous and buy a very large supply of something people usually buy in a very limited amount.”

If approached about the purchases, the people buying it are evasive about it, walk away or come up with a weak excuse about it, like “their boss told them to get it.”
”This stuff we want to know,” Shook said. ”If you see something, say something.” All of the information gathered will be collected at the West Virginia Intelligence Fusion Center in Charleston. Businesses will be given sheets to fill out and send to the proper authorities. Shook said there is hopes this will branch out into other crime reporting.

Local dispatchers received training last week, because they are the first call for many people in the area, Shook said. They were trained to take such information to be able to pass to the fusion center. Shook handed out brochures to the county officials outlining the goals of the program and what they hope to accomplish.

”The importance of educating the public and employees at the point-of-sale cannot be overstated,” the brochure said. ”This is the best way to ensure early detection of suspicious indicators and the sale of precursor chemicals, powders and Improvised Explosive Devise (IED) components to suspicious individuals.

”DHS and our BMAP partners provide public awareness and education to businesses and their employees for identifying and reporting suspicious purchasing behaviors of common products containing explosive precursor chemicals, powders and components commonly used in making bombs.”

Shook said such people are usually looking for a specific product, even when a cheaper alternative is a available.”They are stuck on that product because that is what the internet told them to use or that is what the guy who trains them tells them to use,” he said. ”It is things like that we are hoping people will pick up on.”

Local authorities are not dealing with an abundance of incidents relating to this kind of activity.”Other places did not have rampant cases until something happened,” Shook said.

Part of his training involved going to a box retail store with a list of items with certain chemicals and finding all of them. Certain chemicals are also available in products at beauty supply sellers. If people start asking questions about the contents of these products, Shook hopes the employees can pick up on it and be able to alert the authorities.

Commission President Blair Couch said with the advent of the big box retailers many may think fewer questions would be asked there as opposed to a smaller community hardware/supply store. ”Now getting to the larger retailers so they understand the pattern will help,” he said.

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