Answering Terrorism Prevention and Homeland Security Threats

By Weiss, Jim; Davis, Mickey | Law & Order, September 2014 | Go to article overview

Answering Terrorism Prevention and Homeland Security Threats


Weiss, Jim, Davis, Mickey, Law & Order


THREE FLORIDA POLICING DEMOGRAPHICS

SUMMARY

Concerns, plans, and resources regarding terrorism prevention and homeland security can differ from one community to another. This article examines three Florida Gulf Coast law enforcement agencies and their communities: Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Pinellas Park Police Department, and Clearwater Police Department.

Criminal methods can vary from one place to another, so crime prevention must also vary. For example, in one city residential burglaries may be committed by juveniles cutting school, while in the next, gang thugs boldly smash the front doors of residences without regard to whether or not people are inside. Because of this, the three agencies view homeland security and terrorism prevention in different ways.

However, there are some common grounds. For example, Florida law enforcement agencies are excellent examples of stepping up to help one another, whether it involves a hurricane, rioting, or preventing trouble during an event like the Republican National Convention. Responders from different communities have working relationships and often train together to step up, fill in, or relieve.

Due to the state's floods, hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, and other common natural disasters, safety forces in Florida have experience, and contingency plans are commonplace. Where one community is weak in certain resources, others fill in with theirs. These can include all-terrain vehicles, armored rescue vehicles, bomb squads, tow trucks, helicopters, and road clearing equipment. Plans and training for a natural disaster can often, in whole or in part, be put into place for any type of terrorist attack.

Terrorism Template

There is no universal definition in criminal law of what terrorism is. For this article, we use a working terrorism template expressed in two formats. First, a terrorist is someone causing terror to meet his/her criminal ends. This could be a robber, a rapist, an active shooter, a hostage taker, or someone who assaults another, acting alone or in a group. Terrorists can be homegrown militants or criminals or gangs, or they can have infiltrated the community with the intent to cause terror. These individuals are not ideological terrorist militants and could be called "quasi-terrorists."

Second, terrorists can be ideologicalbased members of a militant, known terrorist group, acting out to cause civil disorder or acts of terrorism. Homeland security is generally focused upon countering the ideological-based members of known terrorist groups.

Pasco County, Fla. Sheriff's Office

Pasco County has a population of about 470,000, a majority of whom live in the western section near the Gulf of Mexico. Within the county's boundaries are six midand small-size cities with city police departments. Pasco County Sheriff's Office (PCSO) is made up of 435 law enforcement deputies and 400 detention deputies.

PCSO is a very anti-crime, mission-oriented agency. The experience of Sheriff Chris Nocco and the rest of the Sheriff's Office is that it is easier for hardliners in these rural areas to advance their ideologies, and these groups tend to grow quickly. According to Captain James Steffens, commander of the Special Operations Division, there is no room for ignorance when dealing with terrorism and homeland security issues; they train to meet and exceed their visualized needs.

One of the two main militant groups in Pasco County is the White Supremacists. According to the FBI, these are extremists who further their goals through threatened or actual use of force, violence, or other illegal activity. The second group is the Sovereign Citizens. The FBI considers them a growing domestic movement that is a threat to law enforcement. They don't believe in government or in paying government taxes. They feel citizens are the government and take a hard line when interpreting the U.S. Constitution. Both of these groups operate at a national level. …

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