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Strategies to Prevent Radicalization and Lone-Wolf Terrorism


Radicalization to violence is a crucial issue affecting populations globally. For decades now, government agencies have done a lot of research to understand the science behind the phenomenon in an effort to help practitioners and policing agencies find preventive measures. Various findings indicate that radicalization occurs in vulnerable and afflicted communities. Populations that go through traumatic experiences, which affect their mentality and ideologies, are more likely to become victims of persuasion into violence. Therefore, efforts to prevent and counter-attack the crimes should focus on engaging the community and law enforcers through effective partnerships that focus on factors that trigger radicalization and terrorism. This paper discusses approaches toward building trust and relationships with the Community to prevent radicalization and formulating counter-terrorism strategies regarding lone wolf terrorists.

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History of Community Policing

Community policing is a security method that acknowledges the autonomy and shared duty of law enforcement and the communities in protecting public safety. Community policing began in the early 1960s when the government authorities decided to involve police officers in maintaining order and reducing crimes through community involvement (Ward, 2018). In the United States, Community policing developed following the development of Europe’s policing methods (Ward, 2018). Initial policing strategies involved communal and informal ways of keeping watch through volunteer guards. The guards were rough and responded and treated criminals and suspects with brutality leading the fear and aversion in the Community towards the police. Citizens could not trust the police leading to many riots and criminal activities. In the early 19th century, the creation of municipal departments for policing replaced the watch system to amend the situation (Helfstein, 2012). Consequently, police departments started engaging community members in policing activities to regain their trust.

Community involvement included partnerships with businesses, community leaders, and non-profit organizations to increase security and report criminal activities. Community policing also established ground patrols to ensure maximum interaction and engagement with community members (Ward, 2018). The current policing system provides close interaction between the police and community members to strengthen trust and reduce criminal activities through direct reporting.

Problems Facing Ethnic and Racial Groups

Ethnic and racial groups face identity conflicts in society, as prejudice and racial discrimination affect individuals’ position in a given population leading to self-awareness and a feeling of estrangement. For instance, the threat of deportation can leave minority groups in a dilemma about where they belong. Racial discrimination also causes the separation of populations where each group considers the other a threat resulting in the emergence of ‘anti-them’ groups. Victims of discrimination can radicalize into terrorist groups to find an identity and feel useful in society. Racial and ethnic discrimination can result in trauma and emotional issues. Most minority groups face threats, racial abuse physically and verbally, unwarranted arrests, and injustices that cause despair and emotional strain on their lives (Helfstein, 2012). The traumatic experiences may trigger a desire for retaliation against society leading to radicalization into violent acts.

Poverty and exposure to violent extremist groups are also among the significant problems facing minority groups. Poverty also influences these populations’ poor living and health conditions, which promotes mental issues and traumas (Helfstein, 2012). Aside from that, poverty levels affect individuals’ engagement in criminal activities to earn a living, where most youths join terrorist groups that promise a better future. Generally, Community policing needs to address the issues within society that lead to vulnerability and radicalization into violence before addressing counter- attacking terrorism acts.

Training Police Officers on Sensitivity and Terrorism Prevention

Police officers are just human like regular citizens of America. Officers face exposure to many dangers and harm in the field, such as shootings and gang riots. Yet, they soldier on in protecting citizens since they have a duty and responsibility towards the State and their line of work. Given the challenges, police officers require quality and adequate training to ensure their safety and prowess in fighting criminal activities. Most police training involves defensive tactics, proper use of firearms, and combat training. However, this training does not address the sensitive issues in society, such as using force during law enforcement. Police officers’ training should focus on sensitive issues in contemporary society, such as dealing with persons with mental illnesses, implicit bias, brutality in law enforcement, and suicidal terrorism such as lone-wolf terrorism (Helfstein, 2012). Victims of radicalization to violence have traumatic issues, mental illness, substance users, and socially aware individuals who require special treatment to understand their motives.

Racial prejudice and biases are the most sensitive issue in law enforcement. Statistically, police officers handle African-American communities with more force than white Americans. African Americans who have been through law enforcement complain of brutal handling regardless of the police officers’ race or ethnic background (Schuurman et al., 2018). Apart from using force, police officers are more aggressive in an African American neighborhood than in their white counterparts. The police always perceive African Americans as more aggressive and violent than white Americans, hence the force during law enforcement. However, Guler (2016) argues that police officers use the excuse due to stereotypic issues regarding the masculinity of most African Americans.

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African Americans are also subject to more scrutiny in drug and firearms possession than their white counterparts. Although studies indicate that Whites use drugs more than African-Americans, the police still insist on searching and longer jail terms when found guilty (Guler, 2016). If the police department needs to create trust between the Community and their policing requirements, it is crucial to address and train officers on such sensitive matters. Thus, officers need training on prejudice and how to combat biases during law enforcement. Although training might not eliminate the racial and ethnic preferences in using brutal force during law enforcement, it will create awareness about the practice, which will help officers identify methods of handling law offenders without prejudice.

Law enforcement officers face complex situations daily, such as interacting with drug addicts, mental issues, poverty-stricken criminals, and lone-wolf terrorists carrying dangerous weapons. These situations require specialized training to handle them with sensitivity. States should provide law enforcers with adequate resources to address the issue, such as support teams that can collaborate with the police during such emergencies (Schuurman et al., 2018). Police jurisdictions should provide intervention teams to deal with critical situations which require professionalism. For instance, a collaboration between the police and mental illness professionals could reduce unwarranted arrests that involve mistaking people with disabilities to be criminals. Other collaborative disciplinaries include professionals who can handle drug abuse victims and social workers who can handle complex law offenders.

Counter-Terrorism Strategies

Community Engagement and Reporting Channels

Policing agencies can create good relationships and trust with community members by providing wellness programs. Most victims of radicalization into terrorism and lone wolf movements are individuals with traumatic experiences or a need to belong. Wellness programs allow community members to interact with professionals who help with traumatic experiences that trigger radicalization. Dealing with the trigger issues can help prevent the radicalization of violence and keep communities safe. Once community members feel a sense of belonging and safety, they can gain trust and collaborate with the police to prevent crimes. Alternatively, police officers can use the wellness programs to identify possible victims of radicalization through observation and attitudes (Helfstein, 2012). Law enforcement officers need to identify suspects and advise community members to observe their movements and report in case of radicalization or lone wolf terrorism intentions.

A practical approach to communication and reporting terrorism activities in communities is through a review board. Local officials can collaborate with the State and policing agencies to create review boards where member launch their complaints a report terrorism activity. For example, Malaysia’s anti-terrorism agency has a community motto, ‘is you see something, say something,’ which encourages members to report suspicious activities (Guler, 2016). With the current technology, police agencies can create websites and applications that allow community members to discuss and report security issues. The websites should consider anonymous reports since community members could feel threatened in case of exposure while reporting terrorism activities. Law enforcement agencies can also provide an emergency number that deals with terrorism report specifically for direct communication. The numbers will enable immediate feedback and energy responses that can help in preventing lone terrorism and radicalization into violence.

Institutional Strategies

Since lone wolf terrorists work alone, their actions are hard to discern as they avoid close associations with others. Lone terrorists plan and execute terrorist attacks alone, where they move inconspicuously among crowds before and after the attack. One approach to identifying and monitoring these lone wolves is by involving afflicted communities (Helfstein, 2012). Influential Community and family members can locate lone wolf suspects by observing and reporting suspicious behaviors. Identifying the suspects helps in monitoring suspicious movements and preventing terrorist attacks. Consequently, identifying terrorist groups’ locality and the radicalization process is a crucial factor to consider in countering lone-wolf terrorism (Helfstein, 2012). Terrorism activities, either alone or in groups, require prior predation to attack within the Community. Therefore, Counter-terrorism agencies should create advanced detection tools that can send signals of terrorism weaponry at long-distance ranges to help find terrorist groups.

Lone wolf terrorism is often triggered by a particular catalyst that may be internal or external. Counter-terrorism agencies should find out the factor that triggers individuals into radicalization into violence and lone-wolf terrorism (Helfstein, 2012). For instance, the issues could be individuals’ experiences, sponsorships for private institutions, religious ideologies, or politics. Understanding the motives of terrorism enables law enforcers to prevent the crime through early prevention measures such as disbanding the organizations and de-legalizing the institution’s acts and ideologies. Additionally, law enforcement agencies can discuss the trigger issues with community members to prevent radicalization by spreading information regarding the consequences of lone-wolf terrorism.


The prevalence of radicalization into violence occurs mainly among vulnerable and minority ethnic groups. The triggering factors include isolation, discrimination, prejudice, and racial identity conflicts that cause traumatic experiences and the feeling of belonging, leading to radicalization and lone-wolf terrorism. Law enforcers should find ways of engaging community members in curbing these trigger factors to prevent radicalization into violence resulting in lone wolf terrorism. Policing agencies must admit to treating minority groups with implicit bias and find ways of mending the relationships for better partnerships through training on society’s sensitive issues to consider in their field of work. Generally, preventing and containing lone wolf terrorism requires the police a community’s efforts to curb triggers that lead to radicalization into violence.

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Guler Ahmet. (2016). Fighting terrorism through community policing. Web.

Helfstein Scott. (2012). Edges of radicalization. Web.

Schuurman, B., Lindekilde, L., Malthaner, S., O’Connor, F., Gill, P., & Bouhana, N. (2018). End of the lone wolf: The typology that should not have been. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 42(8), 771-778. Web.

Ward, G. (2018). Living histories of white supremacist policing: towards transformative justice. Du Bois Review, 15(1), 167-184. Web.

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