JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Federal agencies warn that terrorists may attack Americans as they celebrate the Fourth of July. Major cities have taken note and are already stepping up security at popular events.
"ISIS is very outspoken about how much they hate our freedom, who we are as Americans and July Fourth is one of those natural dates, while we're celebrating freedom, for them to try and poke us in the eye," said Sen. James Lankford, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
The heightened security comes after increased chatter by ISIS supporters online and calls by the terror group to strike in the west. One concern is suspected ISIS supporters in the United States.
According to Justice Department records and court documents, just this year nearly 50 people have been charged in the United States for alleged ties to Islamic radicals.
"Because of the ISIS attacks around the world right now, they just want to be safe around the holidays, because Fourth of July and certain holidays are very sentimental to Americans, and they believe that ISIS could attack during that time," said News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith.
Smith said the tips to keep you and your loved ones safe are fairly straight-forward, but worth mentioning:
- Keep an eye on the people around you, watching for anything that might seem suspicious
- Look out for suspicious packages or out-of-place baggage sitting around
- Watch for people loitering around densely populated areas or buildings
While the threat centers around ISIS-inspired attackers, many in the intelligence community say there is no evidence of a specific credible plan.
"I would not alter your plans this holiday. I don't believe it's that serious. I do think it's serious enough that they're worried that someone will self-activate and try to do something," said Mike Rogers, the former chairman of the intelligence committee.
Already the threats have canceled one event. A British airbase used by Americans will not have Fourth of July celebrations because of the security concerns. A good resource for you to use here in Jacksonville is the i-watch program.
It's a tool the sheriff's office uses to educate the community about the ways they can help spot something strange and report it. Just go to http://www.iwatchjax.com.