ISIS and Local Street Gangs is a series discussing traditional local street gangs and their adopting of the ISIS brand and message as has become an emerging threat in certain communities. During the series, examples of this activity and solutions for law enforcement officers has been showcased and highlighted. Click here to see Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.
What can be done to protect my jurisdiction from ISIS gang activity?
What ISIS “set” you claimin?!
My research of ISIS activity includes following released transcripts of US court cases involving ISIS suspects in an assortment of local jurisdictions. As conversations are describe of ISIS suspects in the United States talking with informants and co-conspirators, their verbiage is extremely telling. A combination of certain Arabic words are interjected in statements as group colloquialisms for ISIS followers. Some examples of expressions are:
- Akhi (brother),
- Inshallah (God Willing),
- Bayah (pledge allegiance to leader),
- Khalifa (Caliphate),
- Dunya (World),
- Jannah (paradise) and
- Jihad (struggle) as well as others.
The context and use of these words takes me back to make comparisons with numerous conversations I had with gang members during my local law enforcement career. The use of certain dialogue, during regular sentences, symbolizing they are part of a larger sub-culture group. The words used were accompanied by clothing and hand signs that also signified the “set” they represented. All ISIS membership in many instances fits this qualification of gang activity as language, hand signs and even certain dress (bottom of pants legs rolled up as not to touch the ground) can be identifiers of ISIS supporters.
Along with knowing terrorist tactics, techniques and procedures (TT&Ps), Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice professionals must additionally become aware of factors and symbolism surrounding the ISIS sub-culture movement within communities. Just as these professionals recognize what “set” a gang member belongs based on his/her verbiage, the same understanding must be developed for the lone individuals and local “sets” of ISIS supporters radicalizing in the community. These individuals are the precursor to wider growth of ISIS in jurisdictions as both a gang phenomenon as well as terrorist movement. Confronting and disrupting their development and action at the earliest stage is paramount for hometown security.
The use of certain dialogue, during regular sentences,
symbolizing they are part of a larger sub-culture group.
Prison radicalization – the frontline fight against ISIS gangs and terrorist group
In February (2018) an ISIS supporter in Minnesota was convicted of a knife attack against two brothers at the Mall of America. After being sentenced to 15 years in the assault, the perpetrator was standing at the defense table ready to be led away. Looking directly at a photographer in court, he flashed the popular ISIS symbol of holding up his right index finger. It is safe to assume this individual has no regrets for the violent ISIS-inspired act he committed. He and other similarly convicted individuals are going to be an ongoing threat of spreading the venomous ISIS message and sub-culture to other inmates in state and federal prison systems. Earlier in the series, we discussed a case of prison radicalization from Virginia state corrections system.
It is very important for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals to begin immediately evaluating the local and global issue of prison radicalization from ISIS and other ideology. Prison systems are the incubator of gang and terrorist activity that eventually impacts neighborhood streets. The more that is learned about emerging threats allows for the development of programs to monitor and interdict these dangerous groupings of inmates. Dealing with the threat now will save lives on the streets down the road.
It is very important for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Professionals
to begin immediately evaluating the local and global issue of prison radicalization
from ISIS and other ideology.
Confronting Violent Extremism in the community
Whether homegrown ISIS activity or a disturbed school shooter as we recently witnessed February (2018) in Parkland Florida, there are an assortment of menacing personalities in our communities. They can be motivated by group or personal ideology (or both) to commit heinous acts. Even when these individuals come up on the radar screen for bizarre or threatening behavior, there are not many grass-roots community-based programs that can engage them before violence occurs. If they have not committed crimes, it is very difficult for law enforcement to conduct any effective proactive actions on an emerging potential danger.
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice professionals must be on the forefront of enabling their jurisdiction to develop grassroots ways to intervene with “at-risk” personalities. Whether they are going down the path of gang activity (ISIS or others), terrorist acts or as a disturbed mass shooter, there has to be a way for family and friends to seek assistance for this individual prior to mass violence. There is no guarantee early intervention will dissuade these individuals to give up a path towards violent actions. But having them identified and information corroborated as early as possible increases law enforcement and the wider communities’ opportunity to proactively interdict acts of violence if the person continues down that route after being engaged with intervention.
Our communities are missing an important intervening step between inaction and prosecution. It is hard for some family members and friends to call authorities about a loved one in danger believing the at-risk person will be prosecuted. This is especially true as the family members justify in their minds this person is just going through a phase, hasn’t yet and wouldn’t really act on violence. A lot of family and friends have made a calculus to “stick their head in the sand” which was met with tragic results in far too many communities.
Our communities are missing an important intervening step
between inaction and prosecution.
Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice professionals are on the frontline of identifying and protecting communities from gang and terrorist activity.
Proactive actions and intervention against the growth of ISIS local street gangs as well as terrorist activity helps to mitigate the deadly threat all communities face from growing dangers from mass violence.
This series was developed to provide Justice Clearinghouse readers information, thoughts and insights about the continued impact of ISIS as a global mass movement. As the allure of ISIS remains with lost and disturbed individuals in our communities, the trend transcends beyond just terrorist group activity. The ISIS ideology has always been intimate in the nexus of criminals – terrorists and is a threat to grow stronger among the prison and/or gang subculture of the United States as well as around the world. Because of the violent nature of the ISIS narrative, this creates an enduring risk to all areas. In February 2018, the American flag was destroyed and the ISIS flag raised at a high school in southwestern Utah. At the time of this writing, this case was still under investigation but showcases ISIS images impacting any size or geographic location.
In this six-part blog article series, we explored and discussed several aspects of emerging ISIS gang activity, including as a possible future growing threat in US jurisdictions. Our investigation looked at the crime-terror nexus as a very important component of ISIS and its recruitment of members. We also discussed ongoing deadly ISIS street gang activity and its roots in a nation close in proximity and cultural ties to the U.S. Most importantly, we discussed ways this phenomenon may impact communities in the United States and key trends for law enforcement to consider in identifying and protecting jurisdiction from this emerging trend. I hope this series increased your awareness and knowledge to better protect your neighborhood and community.