LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) Following October's deadly terror attack in New York City, the FBI's Louisville Field Office wanted to share some of what it's doing in Kentucky and southern Indiana to stop a potential terrorist from gaining tools to carry out an attack.
In a one-on-one sit-down with the 11 News i-Team, Special Agent in Charge Amy Hess said the ongoing efforts are a mixture of concern and counteractivity.
"It's scary, certainly for all the agents and personnel, intelligence analysts and professional staff who work terrorism matters, thinking we may have missed something or thinking we may not have looked in the right place fast enough."
Hess said her team of agents use that emotion as motivation.
A challenge for investigators, though, has been the shift from more traditional organized terror cells to more recent lone attackers.
One counter terrorism official recently told ABC News identifying potential terrorists was less like finding a needle in a haystack and more like trying to figure out which parts of a haystack would become a needle.
"It could be multiple ones and they could be completely unrelated and there could be multiple haystacks out there that have nothing to do with one another," Hess said from the bureau's east Louisville headquarters, "That's the challenge for us."
Despite the vast amount of resources at its disposal, she said one of the FBI's most valuable tools is its relationship with the public: specifically private business owners like Joe Jarles, owner of Everything Concealed Carry in Jeffersontown.
"Gun store owners in general, we ask the hard questions," Jarles said.
The hard questions and tougher scrutiny is part of the bureau's 'Tripwire Initiative', which Hess described as an outreach effort where investigators encourage and offer suggestions to private businesses on awareness practices at places where would-be attackers might try to obtain materials or weapons to be used in an attack.
"The FBI and the ATF have been very careful not to infringe on someone's constitutional rights to arm themselves or purchase a gun, but just to make sure we are aware," Jarles said, "I don't have to sell a weapon to someone I feel uncomfortable with and we have had those situations."
Suspected New York terrorist Sayfullo Saipov is accused of moving down nearly two dozen people on a bike path October 31 Eight people died in the attack which was carried out using a rental truck.
Last week, a man was accused of prematurely setting off a pipe bomb inside a New York City subway station. No one was killed, but it was a reminder to Jarles of the personal responsibility he takes in proactive prevention. He and Hess agreed potential attackers would target rental businesses and gun shops like his.
"We had someone call asking for how they could buy fuses for an explosive, which seemed out of the ordinary for us," he said, "We made the call to the FBI and let them know the conversation that happened and how they could contact that person."
It is help the FBI says it wants and needs.
"If they seem to be concealing or not entering information on an application, why are they doing that, and if they are exhibiting types of behaviors , those are things we want to public to be alerted to," Hess added.
The FBI also said it's not just business owners and their employees who can help investigators. Agents and officials stress the "If you see something, say something" slogan.
To report an incident to the FBI, you can call Louisville's Field Office at 502-263-600 or 1-800-CALL-FBI. You can also send a tip electronically here: https://tips.fbi.gov/
i-Team Investigator Derrick Rose can be reached at 502-582-7232 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @WHAS11DRose.