With the arrest of two New Jersey men on their way to Somalia to become jihadists, the role of the counterterrorism unit at the New York Police Department (NYPD) took center stage. The counterterrorism officer who infiltrated the small cell and recorded key communications is a proud member of the NYPD. We don’t know his identity — nor should we learn it if our media friends can respect the need to keep such information out of the public sphere — but we should loudly applaud his efforts and the efforts of the NYPD for doing everything they can to keep their city and America safe. All too often, the role of state and local law enforcement in stopping terrorists gets overlooked in favor of a fed-centric view, but state and local law enforcement plays a crucial role, especially given their far more closer connection to their communities and far greater numbers of officers.
As our Heritage Foundation survey of counterterrorism capabilities in America’s 129 largest cities and counties showed, most larger cities lack the requisite counterterrorism capabilities needed to effectively meet the challenges of terrorists in our cities. The survey focused on the following capabilities: number of full-time officers dedicated to terrorism, policing strategies used, membership in a Joint Terrorism Task Force, existence of a data fusion or analysis center, number of full-time intelligence analysts, and number of full-time linguists and languages able to translate. Broadly speaking, only a few cities had the full menu of counterterrorism capabilities needed. Although many cities don’t need a full set of counterterrorism capabilities, most still need the basics: full-time officers dedicated to terrorism, intelligence analysts, access to a data fusion or analysis center, and linguists in the main languages of our adversaries. Rather than spend more federal homeland security grant funds on fire equipment in small towns or cities with little to no terrorism threat, we need to make sure our large cities with higher risk profiles have the counterterrorism capabilities they need to stop terrorists.
Check out the report for more details.