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Policing Terrorism

NCJ Number
Gary LaFree
Date Published
July 2012
12 pages
After reviewing the evolving role of local and State police in countering terrorism, this essay considers some of the implications for current policies on policing terrorism.
The first part of this four-part essay considers the frequency and characteristics of terrorist attacks on the United States, with a focus on attacks that have occurred since 9/11. In addition to documenting terrorist attacks that have occurred within the United States, foreign groups that have targeted the United States are identified and profiled. The second part considers how terrorism is similar to and different from street crime with which police agencies deal daily. Terrorism resembles those crimes that have gained prominence in the last half century, such as hate crimes, the crimes of drug-related criminal organizations, and gang-related crimes. The third part of the essay examines some of the ways that the 9/11 attacks changed policing. Because much of the law enforcement work of preventing terrorist attacks occurs at the Federal level, the essay focuses on major changes in FBI strategies since 9/11. The more proactive counter-terrorism approach taken by the FBI has important implications for policing at all levels, since Federal counterterrorism strategies are eliciting proactive intelligence information and follow-up on potential terrorist attacks. The essay's concluding section draws implications for a terrorism policing policy. It argues that the local and State police are critical in both preventing terrorist attacks and in responding to emergency needs in the wake of an attack. Tight States and local budgets pose challenges to police agencies across the Nation. This requires an unprecedented level of cooperation across Federal, State, and local jurisdictions. 4 figures and 24 references