With violent crime increasing in many American cities, it is easy to think of criminals as an “insurgency.” According to the an “insurgency” is defined as, “An organized movement aimed at the overthrow of a constituted government through use of subversion and armed conflict.”

The recent shootings of uniformed police officers in Philadelphia and Oakland highlight these attacks on governmental authority. This growing insurgent behavior includes shootings of civilians, a growing trend of gang violence and an increase in narcotics related kidnapping. The trends point to the need for a renewed strategy to fight violent crime.

General David Petraeus formed a counterinsurgency plan to deal with the situation in Iraq. The general’s strategy was targeted to root out the insurgents and undermine the insurgency. Dave Dilegge’s article on outlined the General’s eight-point strategy.

Legitimacy Is The Main Objective
“The government needs to provide security, act in a fair manner and all persons/groups need to be included in the process.” This is about integrity. The civilian government needs to keep the people safe because nothing else matters. It is the most basic premise of good government, and safety is the most basic need of people. Treating people fairly is a cardinal rule and having moral authority enhances law enforcement legitimacy. If undermined by alleged bad conduct, the citizens may revolt. Fairness, integrity and honesty are powerful tools. In the public’s mind, lacking these elements reduces law enforcement to a bunch of brigands with power and guns. Iraq is a perfect example of these principles in use. You want to accomplish the big “buy in” of law enforcement by the public.

Unity Of Effort Is Essential
“Well-intentioned but uncoordinated actions can cancel each other out and/or provide vulnerabilities suited to be exploited by adversaries.” Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani once said, “Law enforcement needs to be as organized as organized crime.” Too often agency turf wars, bias, or lack of communication result in agencies working against each other.

Every agency (local, state and federal) bring different resources, talents, skills and abilities to the table. Failure to take advantage of these “tools” misses the point that law enforcement is a team effort. Cooperation and coordination opens different avenues into combating a persistent crime problem. Leveraging of each agency’s resources and a “task force” style approach often leads to success.

In Iraq, the military had used “Task Forces” to coordinate all operational elements and it has worked.

Political Factors Are Primary
“One rule of thumb in counterinsurgency (COIN) is 80 percent political action and 20 percent military action. All military and non-military actions should contribute to strengthen the national government’s legitimacy.” Law enforcement agencies deal with all problems but can’t solve all problems. Law enforcement can fight crime but other governmental entities also need to perform especially lawmakers, social services and courts.

For lawmakers, The Patriot Act is a perfect example. Until this Act, law enforcement was still using 20th century tools to fight 21st century crimes. Aspects of this act gave law enforcement 21st Century tools. FBI Director Mueller testified to the Senate that, “In the past, authorities had to seek court approval for each electronic device carried by a suspect, from a cell phone and a smart phone to a home computer. But under the Patriot Act roving wiretap provision, one warrant can cover all of those machines.”

In Oakland, the police confronted a felon who was violent and on parole. He was suspected of physically and sexually abusing young girls. This criminal’s entire life revolved around crime and he should have stayed in prison. All facets of social services and the courts failed to address this criminal’s issues culminating in wanton injuries to countless civilians, including children, and the murder of four police officers.

In Iraq, the military teamed with its Iraqi counterparts to put an Iraqi “face” on security, which helped establish Iraqi governmental legitimacy.

Counterinsurgents Must Understand The Environment
“This is much more than traditional enemy order of battle information. Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) COIN requires a thorough understanding of Iraqi society and culture. Unfortunately, the insurgents hold a home-field advantage in regards to local knowledge. Therefore, to be effective, Coalition forces and other agencies require expertise in such skills as language and cultural understanding.”

Know your beat. The cops “on the beat” often have the pulse of the area. They know who belongs and who doesn’t. They know the criminals, troublemakers and good people. They know the mood of a neighborhood and what the people are concerned about. Local beat cops can become a wealth of information.

Sometimes cops get “trapped” in the police car or develop the “us versus them” mentality. This serves as a blockade to information and relationships that could make the job easier. In life, most things are about relationships. If you develop positive ones, they often reap rewards when you least expect it.

Law enforcement presence establishes “staying power.” In Iraq, establishing these relationships equaled success.

Intelligence Drives Operations
“Without good intelligence counterinsurgents are blind, wasting energy and often causing unintentional harm while conducting COIN operations. With good intelligence they are like surgeons cutting out cancerous tissue while keeping other vital organs intact.” Information is power. The more information law enforcement has, the easier it is to fight crime, find criminals and close cases.

The NYPD’s creation of COMPSTAT (computerized statistics) proved how good information helps a law enforcement agency be more effective. In Walt Schick’s article COMSTAT in the Los Angeles Police Department, “Timely and accurate information and intelligence are absolutely essential in effectively responding to any problem or crisis.”

In Iraq and New York City, increased intelligence helped focus resources on high crime (insurgent) clusters. One thing to remember, traditional criminals and radicals run in similar circles. Recent FBI terrorism investigations were successful because a “radical” reached out to someone they thought was a “criminal” who turned out to be an informant.  Using information is a proven method to target and fight crime or insurgents.

Insurgents Must Be Isolated
“It is easier to separate an insurgency from its resources and let it die than to kill every insurgent. While killing or capturing insurgents is often necessary, especially when based in religious or ideological extremism, killing or capturing every insurgent is impossible and can be counterproductive. Insurgents must be cut off from their sources of power, and the key source is the civilian population.”

Law enforcement will never be able to arrest every criminal or prevent all crime. If law enforcement put every criminal in jail, crime would still occur. Individual needs often lead to crime. To succeed, criminals need someone or something to prey on. Reducing that opportunity reduces crime.

The regular presence of law enforcement, civilians becoming hardened targets and the aggressive enforcement of violations coupled with vigorous prosecution diminishes crime. Ultimately, putting violent criminals in jail and keeping them there removes the problem.

Security Under The Rule Of Law Is Essential
“The COIN cornerstone is security for the civilian population. Without that security no permanent reforms can be implemented and disorder spreads. The local population must see insurgents as criminals. In OIF Iraqi law enforcement organizations must be seen as legitimate and operating under the Rule of Law”.

Edward D. Reuss stated that “We must feel safe in order to progress to the higher social needs that allow us to create a real community. All social needs are built upon the foundation of the fulfillment of these basic needs and the need for security.” Continuing the status quo or sitting idly by are not the tactics for successful crime fighting.

Law enforcement must win the “criminal is misunderstood” argument. We often see criminals popularized and law enforcement portrayed as the “bad guys.” Mumia Abu-Jamal is the court proven killer of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner. According to his website, he has celebrity appeal and support. In Iraq some insurgent groups had popular support. Law enforcement must do a better job of controlling the “story” and winning this argument.

In the publics view, law enforcement should always strive to be beyond reproach. To do this, honesty, integrity and credibility add legitimacy to law enforcement.

Counterinsurgents Should Prepare For Long-Term Commitment
“Insurgencies are protracted by nature. Constant reaffirmations of commitment, backed by deeds, can overcome a common perception that US COIN forces lack staying power. The perception that the national government has similar will and stamina is critical. At the strategic level, gaining and maintaining US public support for a protracted effort is also critical.”

Crime will never completely go away. Criminals become more brazen if they feel law enforcement is weak, ineffective, timid or unsupported. If law enforcement enforces aggressively and then walks away, the criminals will move back in.

As proven in Iraq, staying power pays dividends. The constant presence of law enforcement and an aggressive posture sends the message to the criminals to “beware.” Instead of the public fearing criminals, the criminals fear law enforcement and this fear can be a great deterrent. In New York City and now in Iraq, the “broken windows” theory, “attacking the small problems will reduce the big ones,” works.

No strategy is perfect and this one will require an investment of time, energy, commitment and manpower on the part of leaders, agencies and the public. General Petraeus proved that this strategy can work. It shows an understanding of people, neighborhoods, intelligence and force presence. It was adopted for a combat zone and successful. With strong leadership, willpower, and determination this strategy could help reduce crime in our most violent areas.

Former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton displayed his leadership and expressed his vision: “We will fight for every house in this city. We will fight for every street. We will fight for every borough. And we will win.”

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