Small Towns, Soft Targets, Small Unit Swarming Tactics and Systems Disruption: Are We Ready For a Terrorist Attack?

Soft targets have been discussed in law enforcement and security circles, but few have given serious consideration to the idea of terrorists exploiting small malls, schools churches and places where small groups from the community gather. In light of recent news of terrorist cells being uncovered in suburban American, it is critical to recognize that any location that is open and available for people to gather is a potential target of extremism and terrorist acts.

Take the headlines from Sudbury, Massachusetts where the subject a 27 year old man and conspirators plotted terrorist assaults on shopping malls. How would we in law enforcement and security handle such an attack? Are we prepared for this type of assault here at home? Emotionally we all say yes, but think about it in terms of strategy and tactics; awareness and action. If a mall in the suburbs of Massachusetts or any small town across the country is targeted and the efforts of intelligence fails and an attack does unfold are we ready to deal with it?  

Awesome work through collaborative efforts of law enforcement agencies and individuals have successfully uncovered these recent terror plots, but it’s vital that we are all prepared to uncover more for a long time to come.

Swarming tactics are used in an effort to confuse an adversary. In a case such as a terrorist who attempts to confuse our response, swarming techniques might include an attack on a mall and a surrounding neighborhood or a neighborhood on the other side of town. Swarming tactics could also include counter attacks or ambushes on responding units. In such attacks around the world, nearby hospitals are attacked or an ambulance is ambushed on its way to the hospital, disrupting and distracting responding resources. Swarming and disruption techniques are used to overwhelm the community and responders, in this case a small town mall and the local resources. The Mumbai attacks last November should ring a bell that those attacks kept the government of India at bay for more than 60 hours with hundreds killed injured and held hostage.

Most of us in small town USA are used to handling a single call or a few low risk calls at a time. Preparing through our observations and then orienting to our own strengths and weaknesses verses our adversaries is critically important. This assessment (it must be an honest one) will allow us to make the necessary decisions to prepare and leverage the strength of character to take action and prepare the frontline for what it just may have to do.

Our adversaries are probing and looking for a place to strike we must continue to prevent this from happening and if not we must be ready to defeat them. The time for awareness and vigilance has not left the homeland. Every one of us in law enforcement and security, as well as citizens in our community, must work together if we are to head off those who would do us harm. .  

Hats off to the state and Federal officers for thwarting this attempt...Awesome work! 

Stay Oriented!

Fred