Counter-Terrorism: Gangbusters United


December 16, 2007: American police working gang-activity details have compared notes with those working counter-terrorism and noted an interesting pattern. The gang specialists had experienced a lot of Crips and Bloods (the two largest "national" street gangs) "wannabes" showing up in the last few years These are usually guys walking around pretending, using gang signs, and so on. Often kids from good neighborhoods get involved, because they want to seem tough. A lot of mouth, but no action. But in some other cities, groups like these have sometimes become more and more violent, as they compete for prestige. And occasionally the real Crips or Bloods show up and take over the operation, often with some casualties among the less enthusiastic wannabees.

The counter-terrorism experts are noting a similar phenomenon at work with Islamic radicals. Think about most of the frustrated, and unsuccessful, Islamic terror attacks here and in other countries. A lot of them were by guys who just started out huffing and puffing. But this led some to get more radical, and maybe hatch a plot. But because they lacked training or skills, the law busts most of them pretty quickly. Of course since there are a lot of wannabees out there, some groups may actually carry out an effective attack, by luck as much as by skill, such as the London bombers. So far, apparently, al Qaeda has never actually managed to co-opt a wannabee group, aside from those that were already independent terrorist movements before September 11, 2001, like the Algerian Islamic terrorists.

Wannabe gangbangers have been around longer than young Moslems pretending to be jihadis ("Holy Warriors"), so the counter-terrorism people are taking a closer look at the experience of the "gang squads" in large city police departments. Apparently, keeping track of wannabee activity of any sort can have considerable payoff later on, if you know what to look for, and when to make your move.




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