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Wednesday, 24 August 2016 09:25

Cops Alone Can't Stop Terrorism Featured

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Statistically, the odds of
being caught up in a terrorist attack
in Europe are still vanishingly
small. But the Bastille Day killings
in Nice, the attack in Ansbach, and
the brutal slaying of an elderly
French priest in his church near
Rouen have punctured any remaining
sense that the threat from terrorism
is remote or receding.
Saturday's machete attack on two
female police officers in Charleroi,
Belgium only adds to that sense of
vulnerability.
London's police chief,
Bernard Hogan-Howe, wrote in a
blog post last week that an attack
in Britain is a question of "when
not if." So far, the response seems
to be to throw a staggering amount
of armor at the problem.
Last week saw a new 600-
man counter-terrorist police force
introduced to the streets of London.
From their gray Kevlar body
armor to their high-speed BMW
motorbikes, London's new police
are a long way from the traditional
gunless British bobbies: Their arsenal
includes a Glock 17 pistol and
a Sig Sauer MCX carbine gun.
Trained to operate on water and abseil
down buildings, they are
equipped with battering rams and
special ballistic shields.
Britain isn't the only country
arming itself to the teeth to
fight the terrorist threat. In Germany,
the government has ended a
national taboo that dates to World
War II by ordering soldiers to prepare
to join counter-terrorist efforts,
while France is quickly
becoming the kind of police state
Donald Trump can only dream of.
From the beaches of St. Tropez to
London's shop-lined Oxford Street,
combat boots and assault rifles are
mixing in with flip-flops and beach
bags.
All of this armament is understandable.
But there is another
approach that deserves more attention
too.
Programs to detect and prevent
radicalization work further
upstream. Hundreds of such efforts
are now in progress in cities all
over the world, deploying a wide
range of tools and strategies. They
will increasingly be required to
counter what French philosopher
Bernard-Henri Levy recently called
"the uberization of opportunistic
mass terrorism."
If policing is about finding
a needle in a haystack, these efforts
are all about the haystack. "We
tend to think that this is such a
unique, new and exotic challenge
and in some ways it is -- the ideological
component especially -- but
actually what a lot of people at the
municipal level say is that this is
another social challenge that can be
mainstreamed into our social work
and our work with young people,"
says Jonathan Birdwell, head of
policy and research at the Londonbased
Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
Such programs have been
around for years. They vary in
scale, approach and even how they
define the problem, and so it has
been difficult to get a handle on
what works and doesn't. That is
starting to change.
In May, more than 200 delegates
met in Antalya, Turkey, as
part of the Strong Cities Network,
which connects local officials
fighting violence and provides a
database of programs and best
practices. This includes information
on city-wide approaches such
as Rotterdam’s Anti-Radicalisation
Approach or the Montgomery
County Model, but also training resources
for initiatives such as Montreal’s
Center for the Prevention of
Radicalization Leading to Violence
and resources for front line practitioners
such as the UK’s Prevent
Training Catalogue.
Inspiration and guidance
sometimes comes from the unlikeliest
of places. Dr. Seiny Boiukar
Lamine, the mayor of Kolofata, in
northern Cameroon, spent 50 days
in captivity after being abducted by
Boko Haram. He escaped and devoted
himself to helping his community
build defenses against the
group, setting up "vigilance committees"
in towns and villages, establishing
links between local
committees and government forces
and seeking international support.
In the Colombian city of
Medellin, once known as the
world's most dangerous city, local
authorities reduced the homicide
rate by 90 percent -- also through
creative community engagement
and in part by building libraries
and transport links and tackling
poverty and isolation in areas
where the drug cartels had found
easy pickings.
The idea that Cameroon
and Medellin havesomething to teach Colorado and
Manchester may seem a stretch,
but those working in counter-extremism
say there are some broad
lessons to be applied.
First, city-led programs are
often better than nationally led
ones. "If there's anything we
learned," says Strong Cities Network
manager Rebecca Skellett,
"it's that initiative is about being
locally designed, locally owned
and locally led."
While Britain's much-criticized
Prevent program was ahead
of the curve in some ways, it discouraged
local innovation. It also
blurred the line between security
intervention and community engagement,
leading to criticism that
it was discriminatory and counterproductive.
That speaks to the second
lesson: "Soft state" functions
should as much as possible be separate
from security services. "If
you are trying to build the trust of
the community and running programs
with young people as a way
of giving them something positive
to do and a safe place to talk about
these issues, you don't want one of
the facilitators to be MI5," Birdwell
says, referring to Britain's internal
security services.
In a recent survey of youth
activists involved in countering extremist
messages, less than half
thought that law enforcement
should be included. While many of
those targeted by these programs
have little confidence in local or
national government, engaging in
the community through sports, cultural
events, educational programs
and peer-to-peer groups is seen as
highly effective.
A third lesson is the importance
of a multi-agency approach,
involving community leaders,
schools, religious leaders and nongovernmental
organizations. The
pioneer in this has been Denmark,
which has produced more foreign
fighters per capita than any other
European country except Belgium.
The so-called Aarhus model,
named after its second city, engaged
community police, social
services, youth workers, therapists,
and, crucially, returning fighters
and former radicals who became
trained mentors, to dramatically reduce
the number of foreign fighters
and extremists. The approach has
also been adopted in the capital,
Copenhagen.
"To me, it is not a question
of emphasizing either policing and
intelligence or the local or municipal
effort. It is about mutually reinforcing
the two where it makes
sense," Frank Jensen, the lord
mayor of Copenhagen, told me in
an e-mail.
A fourth lesson is the importance
of social media in disseminating
counter-narratives,
something most Western governments
do poorly if at all. Islamic
State is a multi-channel social
media powerhouse; Western governments
are nowhere in their response.
The Institute for Strategic
Dialogue just published results of a
year-long pilot study on the impact
of counter-narratives. Researchers
tracked the impact of 15 videos by
three nongovernmental organizations
-- in Somalia, the U.S. and
Pakistan -- to discourage engagement
with violent or extremist
groups. The content, approach and
target audiences varied, but the
slick counter-narrative videos
proved powerful, receiving over
378,000 video views and 20,000
total engagements. A handful of respondents
in the study asked for
help to leave their extremist group.
These programs have a
long way to go and remain underfunded.
The most comprehensive
counter-extremism programs seek
not only to prevent radicalization,
but also to reintegrate radicalized
individuals with exit programs, especially
important as increasing
numbers of younger offenders are
spending time in prison. Cities
should never underestimate the
power of mentors and former jihadis
in getting the message across
to young people, as programs in
Denmark, Britain and elsewhere
have shown.
These efforts can't replace
the new robo-cops policing our
streets, but they may ultimately do
more to make us safer.
This column does not necessarily
reflect the opinion of the editorial
board or Bloomberg LP, The Sun
Bay Paper and its owners.
Therese Raphael

Read 1404 times Last modified on Wednesday, 24 August 2016 09:29

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