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September 2019

The Real Fear of Terrorism – Major Public Safety Concern – Part 2

By | CMU News

Part One of this publication examined the “Real Fear of Terrorism” and how it has affected the individual, community and state. It dealt with mass shootings in the United States, a phenomenon which has become increasingly popular for persons with terrorist intentions.

The document ended with the prognosis, that this type of terrorist activity and the spread of fear would likely continue or get worse, if tangible counter terrorism strategies were not employed to effectively address the current and emerging terrorist threats.

Part Two will now look at the “Counter measures to deal with terrorism and how to restore public safety”.

Countering terrorism, restoring public safety

Former Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden makes the point that “Naming the problem is the only way to fixing the problem”. Whether you like or dislike the Vice President, his suggestion makes a lot of sense or is on point. My experience has taught me that crime is like a disease which if it to be fixed, must be properly diagnosed, named and prioritized for the appropriate solution.

It is in keeping with the diagnosing, naming and prioritizing of this type of problem why the United Nations developed a counter terrorism strategy to deal effectively with terrorism. The strategy is built on four fundamental pillars;

Pillar # 1 – Addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

Pillar # 2 – Preventing and combatting terrorism.

Pillar # 3 – Building states capacity and strengthening the role of the United Nations.

Pillar# 4 – Ensuring Human rights and the rule of law.

In light of what is happening north of us, all four pillars are extremely important, however since pillar # 1 seeks to address the matter of prevention, then serious attention must be paid to those issues which some persons and entities are positing as the cause for these terrorist act which are being played out in mass shootings across the United States.

The availability and accessibility to all types of firearms and ammunition, uncontrolled and unsupervised access to the internet, violent video games, unattachment from family and communities, untreated mental health condition, bigotry and gang affiliation are conditions which are conducive to the spread of terrorism and must be dealt with in order to counter terrorism. Ensuring human rights and the rule of law is an inescapable societal demand which must be effectively fulfilled.

Threat and risk assessments of terrorism

When we speak about threat and risk assessment, we are taking into account the danger, harm or loss that is lurking somewhere out there and the levels of exposure of the individual, community or state to the threat that is lurking. The current assessment is showing us that unlike previous terrorist attacks where explosives have been used, the preferred weapon in these recent incidents in the United States is the gun. High powered rifles with high performance magazines have featured in most of the mass shootings. Small arms are extremely portable and concealable and can be easily move from one country to another. Jamaica is experiencing severe firearms proliferation challenges and the main source country is the United States, which is having its fair share of challenges in the form of mass shootings.

It is an undeniable and undisputed fact that Jamaican are fond of guns. Guns are the weapon of choice in the commission of murders in Jamaica. The gun is featured in approximately eighty five percent of the murders committed in Jamaica. The Minister of National Security, The Honourable Doctor, Horace Chang, whilst addressing the Parliament of Jamaica stated that intelligence reports are suggesting that approximately two hundred illegal guns are imported into Jamaica each month.

With twelve months in the year, it means that 2400 illegal firearms are finding their way into the country. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is reporting that on average per year, they are recovering approximately six hundred illegal firearms. With that said, approximately 1800 firearms would be left in the hands of criminals to carry out violent attacks against the Jamaican population, of three million people.

In making the connection between the United States and Jamaica, it is important to develop a checklist of the conditions that have given rise to the problems that the United States is experiencing and equate them with the Jamaican situation. We have unattached youths who hold the belief that families, friends and society have failed them. We have over two hundred gangs operating across the country and recruiting young people into their membership. These gangs are involved in transnational organized crime to include drug trafficking, firearms trafficking, human trafficking and money laundering. Our children are exposed to the internet and most times without supervision. The violent video games which are spoken about in the United States are available here in Jamaica and are used by children without adult supervision. Mental health issues are affecting both children and adult and sometimes it is hidden by family members who may consider it as a “taboo subject”.

We are witnessing incidents of suicide being committed by adults and children. Access to illegal firearms is fairly easy, especially through gang connection, some of which has their built in rental systems. We have human rights issues and low levels of hate crimes. The country has a murder rate which according to the JCF is averaging in excess of twelve hundred murders annually. Killing people is not a strange phenomenon in Jamaica. We are known to copy some of the bad examples like drive by shootings and cybercrimes as perpetrated in the United States.

When the checklist is analysed across the two spectrums, we see glaring similarities to the extent that we can no longer say, this cannot happen to our beloved country. All the risk indicators are showing that Jamaica is at an extremely low level on the risk ranking chart, but so was New Zealand when the terrorist who was from another jurisdiction, committed a major terrorist act which claimed the lives of approximately fifty people and has plunged that country into fear and panic. The worst thing any state could do is to render itself beyond the reach of the terrorist threat. Whilst the probability remains extremely low all things are possible, as terrorists are always looking for soft targets similar to El Paso and Dayton. With that realization, continued focus must be placed on terrorism counter measures which must be done from a proactive standpoint.

The way forward

The fear of terrorism can cause states to cower into hiding and hope the terrorists will pass them by, or the fear can generate the adrenaline that will put the state into fight mechanism to effectively tackle the terrorism challenge that is confronting the world. The United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy which comes out of the UN Office of Counter Terrorism, remains a useful reference document in dealing with terrorism related issues at this time. The four pillars form an effective blueprint to guide counter terrorism activities.

Fear, whether real or imagined, has its effect but let us at this time apply the fight mechanism and push back the terrorists. We could start by doing these things:

1. Condemning all forms of terrorism.
2. Remove euphemisms from terrorism classification. Call it what it is.
3. Commence terrorism awareness education to reach the mass of the people since they are most vulnerable.
4. Identify and dry up sources of terrorist financing.
5. Study and limit their access to the means that enable them to carry out their threats, with particular reference to firearms.
6. Address the conditions that give rise to terrorism.
7. Build state capacity to respond to the threat of terrorism. Capacity building must be done from a proactive standpoint.
8. Aggressively pursue and deal with sponsors and facilitators of terrorism.
9. Deal with human rights issues which have the possibility to cause decent and alienation.
10. Develop and promote the understanding that crime affects everyone and is not confined to the immediate victims.
11. Enforce the rule of law without fear or favour, malice or ill will.

 

Assan Thompson, Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, JCF
Head of Department
Centre for Security, Counter terrorism and Non-Proliferation (CSCTN)
Caribbean Maritime University