Domestic Terrorism: Threats and Impact on Local Communitites

Domestic terrorism has become a rising concern in the United States, with a significant increase in attacks and plots targeting cities and communities. These incidents pose a threat to public safety and have a profound impact on local businesses and the overall well-being of communities. In this article, we will explore the rise of domestic terrorism, the motives behind these attacks, and the efforts being made to combat this growing threat.

Understanding Domestic Terrorism Incidents

Domestic terrorism is defined as criminal acts on U.S. soil that are intended to coerce a civilian population or influence the conduct of the government. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there were 231 incidents of domestic terrorism between 2010 and 2021. These incidents occurred across the United States, with a higher concentration in states that have major metropolitan areas such as California, New York, and Washington, D.C.

The motives behind these attacks vary, but one significant factor is the rise of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism (RMVE). Approximately 35% of domestic terrorism incidents between 2010 and 2021 were classified as racially or ethnically motivated, making it the largest category. These attacks have been particularly lethal, such as the racially motivated individual who killed five police officers in Dallas in July 2016 and the recent attack in Buffalo, New York, where a racially-motivated individual shot and killed 10 people.

Other motivations for domestic terrorism include anti-government or anti-authority extremism, which accounted for a significant number of incidents. Animal rights extremists and abortion-related violent extremists were also responsible for a small portion of domestic terrorism incidents. It is important to note that these incidents pose a significant threat to public safety and require swift action to prevent further harm.

Impact on Local Communities

Domestic terrorism incidents have a profound impact on local communities, including their economies, social fabric, and overall well-being. These attacks often target government, military, and law enforcement agencies, which are at the forefront of combating terrorism. The attacks create a sense of fear and insecurity among community members and can lead to increased tensions between opposing sides.

One notable trend is the increase in the number of attacks and plots occurring during public demonstrations. In 2020 and 2021, over 50% of domestic terrorist incidents took place at demonstrations, particularly in metropolitan areas such as Portland, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. This trend has created a “security dilemma” in these areas, where the efforts to improve security by one side can escalate the violence and further endanger the community.

Additionally, law enforcement agencies have become primary targets of domestic terrorists from all ideological backgrounds. In 2021, government, military, and law enforcement agencies were targeted in 43% of domestic terrorist attacks. This indicates a growing risk to the security and safety of those who work to protect the community.

The impact of domestic terrorism extends beyond the immediate incidents. It can lead to increased fear and mistrust among community members, disrupt business activities, and negatively affect the local economy. Communities must come together to address these challenges and find ways to mitigate the impact of domestic terrorism.

Federal Efforts to Combat Domestic Terrorism

The federal government plays a crucial role in combating domestic terrorism and ensuring the safety of communities. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is responsible for leading domestic terrorism-related investigations and intelligence efforts. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) tracks terrorism-related incidents and shares intelligence with federal, state, local, and private entities.

In recent years, there has been a significant increase in domestic terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions. The number of FBI domestic terrorism investigations has more than doubled since 2020, and the number of open FBI investigations has quadrupled from 1,981 in FY 2013 to 9,049 in FY 2021. Furthermore, federal district court prosecutions and charges related to domestic terrorism have also seen a sharp increase.

Despite these efforts, there are challenges in coordinating and sharing information between different agencies. The FBI and DHS have made strides in sharing information with each other and their partners, but there is a need for comprehensive collaboration agreements that reflect their needs and improve their effectiveness. Additionally, the collection and sharing of incident data need to be streamlined to enhance coordination and response efforts.

To address these challenges, it is essential for the FBI and DHS to assess their existing collaboration agreements regularly and ensure they have an integrated approach to information sharing. Periodic evaluations of collaborative practices can help identify areas for improvement and enhance the effectiveness of their efforts. By strengthening partnerships and improving coordination, federal agencies can better combat the threat of domestic terrorism.

Protecting Communities: Resources and Initiatives

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its partners are actively working to keep Americans safe and protect communities from the threat of domestic terrorism. They provide various resources and initiatives to support prevention, preparedness, and response efforts. Here are some key examples:

  1. Information Sharing and Intelligence: The DHS and FBI prioritize sharing timely and actionable information with partners at all levels of government and in the private sector. Recurring threat briefings are conducted to inform security planning efforts and facilitate collaboration. The dissemination of intelligence is vital in identifying and preventing targeted violence and terrorism.
  2. Prevention Resource Finder: The Prevention Resource Finder (PRF) is a comprehensive web repository launched by DHS in collaboration with federal partners. It provides communities with access to federal resources to understand, mitigate, and protect themselves from targeted violence and terrorism. The PRF serves as a valuable tool in promoting preparedness and resilience.
  3. Engaging Faith-Based and Community Organizations: The DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships engages a coalition of faith-based and community organizations. Through initiatives like the Faith-based Security Advisory Council (FBSAC), these partnerships aim to enhance the capacity of organizations seeking to protect their places of worship and community spaces.
  4. Intelligence Analysis and Reporting: The DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) collaborates with the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center to update behavioral indicators of U.S. extremist mobilization to violence. The National Threat Evaluation and Reporting Program provides tools and resources to federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial partners for preventing terrorism and targeted violence.
  5. Critical Infrastructure Security: The DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) works with government and private sector partners to enhance security and mitigate risks posed by acts of terrorism. Protective Security Advisors and resources addressing active shooter incidents, school safety, and bombing prevention play a crucial role in safeguarding critical infrastructure and public gathering places.
  6. Community Outreach and Education: The DHS’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) educates stakeholders on identifying indicators of radicalization to violence and provides resources to prevent targeted violence and terrorism. The Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (TVTP) Grant Program supports community-based initiatives, and webinars on building partnerships and school safety promote awareness and preparedness.
  7. Transportation Security and Risk Reduction: The DHS’s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Intermodal Security Training and Exercise Program (I-STEP) and Exercise Information System (EXIS®) collaborate with government and private sector partners to enhance security and reduce risks posed by acts of terrorism in critical transportation infrastructure.

These resources and initiatives demonstrate the commitment of DHS and its partners to preventing targeted violence and protecting communities. By fostering collaboration, providing training and resources, and enhancing security measures, they aim to create a safer environment for all.

Staying Safe and Vigilant

It is crucial for individuals and communities to stay informed, prepared, and vigilant in the face of the domestic terrorism threat. Here are some key steps to consider:

  1. Emergency Preparedness: Be prepared for emergency situations and be aware of circumstances that may place you at risk. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings and know the nearest security personnel or authorities.
  2. Online Safety and Media Literacy: Keep yourself safe online and develop digital and media literacy skills to recognize and build resilience against false or misleading narratives. Stay informed through reliable sources and verify information before sharing it.
  3. Security Measures for Businesses, Houses of Worship, and Schools: Review resources provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to better protect businesses, houses of worship, and schools. Implement appropriate security measures and develop safety plans to ensure the well-being of employees, visitors, and students.
  4. Active Shooter Preparedness and Bombing Prevention: Prepare for potential active shooter incidents, enhance awareness of terrorist threats, and build counter-improvised explosive device capabilities. Training and resources are available to help individuals and organizations respond effectively to these threats.
  5. Community Engagement and Reporting: Familiarize yourself with community-based resources and programs, such as the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI). If you observe suspicious activity or threats of violence, report them to local law enforcement, FBI Field Offices, or your local Fusion Center. Remember, “If You See Something, Say Something®.”
  6. Building Partnerships and Promoting De-Escalation: Attend webinars and workshops on building partnerships and preventing targeted violence. Learn about de-escalation techniques to observe and evaluate suspicious behaviors and mitigate potential risks. The Power of Hello Campaign encourages positive interactions and community engagement.
  1. Cybersecurity and Physical Security Measures: Ensure your online safety by following cybersecurity best practices. Protect critical infrastructure and public gathering places by implementing physical security measures. The DHS’s resources and advisory programs can guide individuals and organizations in enhancing their security posture.

By taking these steps and staying vigilant, individuals can contribute to the overall safety and security of their communities. It is essential to work together, support one another, and report any potential threats to the appropriate authorities.

The rise of domestic terrorism poses a significant threat to local communities in the United States. Understanding the motives behind these attacks, the impact on communities, and the efforts being made to combat this threat is crucial. By fostering collaboration, sharing information, and promoting community engagement, federal agencies, local authorities, and individuals can work together to prevent and respond to domestic terrorism. By staying informed, prepared, and vigilant, communities can work towards creating a safer and more resilient society for all.