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Defeating Complacency

NCJ Number
THE POLICE CHIEF Volume: 77 Issue: 8 Dated: August 2010 Pages: 64,66,68,71
Thomas M. Fresenius; John Pikus; Christopher Cummings; Laurie Bennett
Date Published
August 2010
6 pages
After noting that complacency among law enforcement agencies and communities in sustaining counterterrorism efforts has become a significant problem, this article recommends ways in which such complacency can be addressed, with attention to efforts in New York State.
Officials worldwide worry that complacency has become a major obstacle in terrorism prevention programs. Counterterrorism units rely upon the reporting of suspicious activity by the public, businesses, and law enforcement personnel in identifying investigative leads that may thwart terrorist attacks. The New York State Intelligence Center's analysis of 22 thwarted terror plots since 9/11 ("Project Vigilance") has determined that most of the major cases were detected either through law enforcement efforts or the public's reporting of suspicious activity. Eighty percent of the initial clues of terrorist activity came from observing, reporting, and properly acting on threatening behavior, such as openly discussing plans for terrorist attacks, or the reporting of suspicious activity, such as conducting target-site surveillance. These findings suggest that law enforcement agencies and the public must continue to take seriously the persistence and ongoing activity of terrorists if their attacks are to be thwarted in the planning stages. Recommendations for re-energizing lagging counterterrorism efforts are categorized for the following entities: State, county, local, and tribal law enforcement; communities; and businesses. The article concludes with recommendations for measuring performance in counterterrorism efforts. Performance measures include attendance of law enforcement executives at meetings related to counterterrorism efforts; tracking the number of intelligence and suspicious activity reports given to fusion centers by local law enforcement agencies; evaluation of counterterrorism training and awareness programs; and analysis of and action on "lessons learned" from studies of thwarted terrorist plots. 1 table, 3 figures, and 9 notes