Expect a lot of hyper-vigilance the next few weeks because of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
In the Midwest, authorities have been alarmed by bulk purchases of cheap, prepaid cellphones at Wal-Mart stores in central and eastern Missouri. Under normal circumstances it might be written off to Christmas shopping.
But because of concerns about terrorists, the cellphones could be a way of arming assailants with an untraceable means of communicating to make coordinated strikes on unsuspecting targets. Or the phones could be used as devices in the remote detonation of explosives.
The Christmas shopping season brings a lot of people out in what authorities consider soft unprotected targets.
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Authorities also are investigating the theft of small propane tanks in the Kansas City area. They might normally power backyard grills, recreational vehicle or camp stoves, but again because of the times, the missing tanks are a concern because they could be used to power explosions.
The deaths and injuries of people who were victims in the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris were commemorated Sunday, a month after they occurred. The San Bernardino killings occurred Dec. 2 at a holiday gathering. Investigations continue in both cases.
In the Midwest, the FBI has been alerted about the large cellphone purchases and the theft of propane tanks. Sheriff’s offices and police departments in Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Jefferson City, Lebanon and Macon have reported people buying large numbers of cellphones from Wal-Mart stores, The Kansas City Star reports. Fifty-nine phones were bought in Lebanon.
Independence police reported 28 propane tanks stolen from a locked cage at a drugstore on East 23rd Street. A similar theft was reported in Lee’s Summit.
At the same time, some mosques in California have reported being damaged. Those are being investigated as hate crimes.
The political rhetoric by some Republican presidential candidates against Muslims in this country and Muslim refugees who want to come here from war-torn nations such as Syria has stirred up people’s biases against those who worship Islam.
Certainly the usual cellphone purchases and propane tank thefts need to be investigated thoroughly to rule out their being used for destructive purposes. The investigations could help prevent trouble long before any is set to occur, and that’s good.
But the anti-immigration, anti-Muslim rhetoric needs to end. Authorities have their hands full trying to chase down leads and protect the public without having to needlessly pursue unwarranted hate crimes.