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Manhattan Institute

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The Convergence of Crime and Terror: Law Enforcement Opportunities and Perils

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The Convergence of Crime and Terror: Law Enforcement Opportunities and Perils

July 1, 2007

Executive Summary

The Convergence of Crime and Terror: Law Enforcement Opportunities and Perils provides an analysis of the increasingly important link between traditional criminal activities and terrorism. By cataloging a number of relevant cases, the authors have illustrated that terrorists routinely resort to "traditional" crimes, from drug trafficking to financial scams, to further their objectives.

As a result, terror prosecutions must find inspiration from historical government efforts to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate notorious violent criminals such as Al Capone on relatively minor charges such as tax evasion. The aggressive prosecution of such relatively minor offenses can serve to disrupt grander malevolent schemes.

As the authors suggest, the rise of terrorism means that the traditional, reactive law enforcement model must change. We cannot afford to wait until after a successful terrorist attack occurs to investigate and prosecute. The examples from Europe included in this paper provide a sobering explanation for why that is so. Law enforcement officials must consider disruptive investigations and prosecutions that may not ultimately lead to a criminal trial on terrorism charges but that will stop potential terror plots before they are put into motion.

We face a decentralized, networked, and self-sufficient enemy. Independent cells are increasingly purchasing that self-sufficiency with the proceeds of criminal enterprises. This hard reality provides yet another justification for transforming state and local first responders into first preventers of crime and terror.

The Center for Policing Terrorism thanks Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Kyle Dabruzzi for making the case in this paper for prevention-oriented, intelligence-led policing.

Timothy P. Connors

Director, Center for Policing Terrorism

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