A disturbing pattern has emerged in the recruiting tactics of hyper-violent organizations like ISIS: nearly all foot soldiers who have carried out mass-casualty attacks recently are already violent criminals known to police.
According to a recent Washington Post article, those responsible for the deadly attacks in Brussels were all known criminals – one an auto thief and carjacker; another an armed robber who had previously shot a police officer; and others with numerous drug and burglary convictions.
This recruiting tactic has spread from the streets of the Middle East to the streets of Europe with deadly consequences. Now more than ever, local police agencies must collect and share information and insights into criminal activity and suspicious situations in order to stop this recruiting tactic.
In a November 2015 article for the French publication Le Monde, Olivier Roy, professor at the European University Institute near Florence, argues that we are not facing the radicalization of Islam, but rather the Islamization of radicalism. Olivier argues that rebellious, often second-generation Westerners, seeking justification for their individualism, angst and criminality, find it in Islam. The “nice guy” who had a few problems suddenly displays new-found religious fervor and pride.
The pattern can be seen in numerous events involving the Tsarnaev brothers, the Kouachi brothers and now the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks. If this pattern holds, the need for police to be able to collect and analyze criminal information – especially including suspicious activity observances through field interview reports – will grow increasingly important not only in solving local crimes, but in preventing terrorist attacks. Officers should be trained to recognize suspicious activities that represent early indications of this transition and must have the tools to capture such observations and share them within and beyond their agencies and jurisdictional boundaries.
Technologies such as Haystax’s Mobile Field Interview capability should be used to capture those observations, and our Haystax for Incident Management platform is optimized to blend this data with other streaming information to analytically prioritize threats immediately across the community.