This is as good a summary as is available now on yesterday’s attack in Manhattan, and, as we all know, the Media doesn’t begin to get the facts right for at least a week after one of these terror attacks. It was only a matter of time for this type of low risk to the attacker, minimal equipment required, vehicle ramming attack to arrive in America. They have been used successfully for several years in Europe and the UK, with the same devastating effect. I watched a little of the expert commentators on TV last night tell us what can be done to prevent such attacks in the future and was underwhelmed. The targets are plentiful here and they are very soft. Police and security agencies will never be able to protect them all.
However, in my experience there are two major areas we can improve on that will impact this problem:
First: informative and creative public awareness programs that convey to the public what to look for and that will motivate the public to contact law enforcement when they see something. “See something – say something” is a good program but it will be effective only if the public knows beyond their common sense ability what that “something” looks like.
Second: we need comprehensive, professional training for our officers in countering the terror threat. Some of the subjects that might be included in this training are:
• The historical evolution of the threat.
• Early terrorists and groups.
• Modern terror group attacks, tactics, techniques and procedures (so called TTP).
• The methodology of radicalization.
• Informant and source network development.
• Programs that will build public trust and participation: the importance of community outreach into the populations where young men and women are radicalized is critical. Countering terrorism requires that we win the battle for “hearts and minds” of these bystander populations. This requires educated, insightful, compassionate officers that regularly interact with the public, are able to gain public trust and then motivate public participation in the security process.
• The role of the Internet and the “Dark Web” in radicalization.
• Sophisticated, creative, well-funded, government counter-radicalization programs.
These efforts are not inexpensive but are far less costly than where we currently spend our money: to buy more guns, gates, guards, sophisticated equipment and additional personnel. I have often said to my college students at Radford University and to my government audiences that “we don’t need more police officers, FBI agents or security guards; what we need are better trained police officers, FBI agents and security guards.”Terror in New York