Can you make a city safe against terrorists using vehicles as weapons?
No, is the short answer, no more than you can against terrorists using other everyday items to execute attacks.
The most obvious defences are barriers that prevent vehicles either gathering speed or continuing for long distances.
These can be highly visible – such as the deliberately obvious metal-cased concrete blocks or disguised, as with heavy flower pots and sculptures that are appearing on our streets.
Less obviously, streets and access roads can be redesigned to prevent vehicles reaching targets or accelerating.
So stopping terrorist attacks using vehicles differs little from stopping terrorists with other weapons, and depends on a complex and dynamic mix of intelligence, law enforcement, public awareness, community relations and other elements that have grown familiar over recent years.
One element security services are looking at is how better to tackle the immediate phase after arrests, or another event that exposes a network before members are ready to attack.
Months ago, Czech President Milos Zeman made an unusual request: He urged citizens to arm themselves against a possible “super-Holocaust” carried out by Muslim terrorists.
Never mind that there are fewer than 4,000 Muslims in this country of 10 million people — gun purchases spiked.
One shop owner in East Bohemia, a region in the northern center of the Czech Republic, told a local paper that people were scared of a “wave of Islamists.”
In England the terrorism problem it’s growing…very fast, and the goverment ….. it’s thinking to prepare the population :
With Islamic State strongholds in places like Mosul beginning to fall, more and more jihadi fighters will return to Britain.
The majority will be intercepted, but a few will slip through the net and that’s why we need something beyond the existing initiatives like Project Griffin, ACT (Action Counters Terrorism) and Run, Hide, Tell.
We need to provide the public with the skills and training to enable them to spot the tell tale signs of suspicious activities or behaviour within their neighbourhoods.
Including signs of radicalisation and identifying those who support violence and are sympathetic to terrorists and their causes.
How to recognise suspicious articles, behaviour and vehicles and how to provide an accurate description of these to the police.
It should also provide a process of things to do after a terror attack in order that communities can work together during a time of difficulty and adversity.
The response to a terror attack and what people can do to protect themselves and their fellow citizens is critical in countering the current threat.
Those who are even considering involvement in plots against this country should be under no illusion that they have nowhere to hide and that they will not be shielded by their communities. In fact, quite the opposite.
Singapore rolled out this very programme last September and made it available to all it’s citizens.
It’s called SG Secure and it has allowed Singapore to take a huge step forward in combatting the threat posed by terrorism by creating a trained and aware population.
Surely any initiative which equips citizens with lifesaving skills has to be encouraged and given the risks we currently face, this will certainly make the terrorists job much harder.
Any such programme will always have supporters and detractors, but where national security is concerned, we all have a part to play.
Singapore is being proactive in its approach to counter-terrorism and in doing so is giving its citizens a chance to make a difference in their communities by making them a tangible asset in the national security tool kit.
Police in New South Wales, Australia, warned nightclubs, restaurants, shopping centers and sports grounds they need to train staff to confront possible terrorists.
Specifically “front of house” staff such a bartenders, cleaners and waiters need to know what to do if a terrorist strikes.
The advisory came ahead of planned celebrations for New Years Eve and in light of the arrest of Somali-Australian Ali Khalif Shire on suspicion of planning an ISIS-inspired attack.
He is charged with attempting to obtain a semi-automatic rifle with intent to shoot innocent partygoers in Melbourne’s Federation Square.
“Frontline staff need to understand the plans (for a possible attack),” Senior Sergeant Rob Fleischer said, according to The Daily Mail.
“A lot of times, it’s not going to be us (police) who are going to be dealing with the first five minutes.
The first five minutes is front of house staff.”
Those staff need to be trained in how to react and how to help patrons escape, police said.
Those receiving training should include “ushers, people who take money at checkouts, cleaners, security … there’s a whole range,” Inspector Peter Aitken clarified.
It has not been reported if the police intend to provide such training or if individual establishments will be expected to conduct it on their own.
Other options like deploying extra police to the streets are unlikely to significantly reduce police response time.
France, for example, deployed 10,000 soldiers to the streets in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that killed 17 people in January 2015.
In May of that year, President Francois Hollande announced 7,000 of those soldiers would remain permanently.
Yet there are a vast number of potential “soft targets” in any given city — pizza parlors, nightclubs, bars, cafes.
It is ludicrously impractical for police or even the army to have an armed guard at every door. The numbers of servicemen required and the cost of deploying them are simply prohibitive.
The solution proposed by New South Wales police is also the preferred solution of military analyst William Lind, who laid out his position in a 2015 piece for the American Conservative titled “The Logic of a Modern Militia.”
Noting that the modern national security state is failing to defeat non-state insurgents around the world, he advocates that people need to look to their own defenses.
“In a world where the state no longer has a monopoly on war, we must return to a pre-state world where every able male is a warrior,” he writes.
“Unlike our colonial militias, however, these new militiamen would have neither weapons nor organization.
Rather, they would take a pledge that whenever they encounter a “lone shooter,” they will stop him using whatever they have at hand:
throwing rocks or chairs, tackling him, beating him unconscious, running over him with their car. If they happen to be armed, fine; if not, they attack anyway.”
This is already the reality in Israel. As Haaretz reported in 2015, when stabbing attacks were taking place several times a week in Jerusalem and other major cities. “When confronted with an attack, bystanders are left to subdue the assailant using whatever objects are handy until police can reach the scene.” Israeli civilians successfully subdued terrorists with, among other things, nunchucks, a selfie stick and a pizza tray.
One real estate agent heard screams from outside, grabbed an umbrella from the corner of his office and smashed the terrorist with it until the umbrella, in his words “pretty much broke apart and disintegrated.”
In Sunday’s terror attack in Israel, citizens tackled a terrorist who had just stabbed a security guard and pinned him down until the police arrived seconds later.
Ideally, ordinary working people should not have to act as first responders during high-pressure counter-terror situations. However, the reality is that they often will be. Therefore they should at least be trained to be ready for it.