Free Terrorism AND Criminal Activity Essay Sample

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Crime, Law, Criminal Justice, Police, Social Issues, Terrorism, Enforcement, Terrorist

Pages: 6

Words: 1650

Published: 2023/04/10

Terrorism, however, is not an average crime. To be sure, terrorism is a specific type of criminal activity, commonly known as a transnational crime. Whereas most criminal acts are local in nature; transnational crimes can be local, national and global at the same time (Luban et al., 2010). Indeed, while a robbery on a San Francisco street would only require the attention of city criminal justice actors; the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino not only involved local police but also the FBI, the Department of State, as well as authorities in Pakistan. In short, terrorism is criminal activity with a significantly higher level of complexity. The fact that terrorism and crime are legally the same presents authorities with a number of similarities and differences that work to both help and hinder the resolution of both.


Naturally, one of the primary duties of law enforcement authorities is to ensure the safety and security of the community and state from both terrorist and criminal activity. The means to achieve these goals, however, are quite different depending on the focus of the activity.
Since the establishment of the professional police force in the mid-1800s; police departments have developed a number of methods to deter or prevent criminal activity. The oldest and most common method was and is the police patrol, where clearly recognizable police officers make themselves present and available in the community. The theory underlying the police patrol is that people are less likely to perpetrate a criminal act if the police are present or nearby because the risks of getting caught are greater than succeeding without detection. Nowadays, the traditional police patrol has been enhanced with a range of options; all of which are focused on the prevention of crime. Community-oriented policing (COPS), for instance, argues for the development of police-community relationships that enhance law enforcement’s ability to understand and identify issues and individuals in the community that might facilitate criminal activity so that they can act proactively to stop the person or problem before a crime occurs. Similarly, the use of technology, crime stats and data analysis allows police departments to determine “hot spots” or areas that are most likely to experience crime so that they can deploy personnel and resources to the hot spot in a timely fashion to prevent crime. Another way that crime is prevented, is through the use of surveillance and undercover operations. These means can be effective if the police known or have prior information about a suspect and can initiate an operation in time to prevent the occurrence of the criminal act. Whatever the method, crime prevention is focused on having an understanding the local environment and also having an “open and notorious” presence.
Since the initiation of many terrorist acts are often similar to a standard criminal act, the traditional police patrol can play an important role it their prevention. For example, if there is a large and significant police presence in a specific area, potential terrorists might think twice about staging an attack in that location. An airport, provides an illustrative example. The substantial number of law enforcement authorities at airports have made them less of a viable target for terrorists. In addition, some of the more modern aspects of police crime prevention tactics, such as COPS, can also play a role in the prevention of terrorism. For instance, a community member with suspicions about whether a local individual has terrorist proclivities may inform his local police station, who then follow up and find that the person is a terrorist and arrest him before he can stage his attack. Unfortunately, the history of terrorist attacks suggests that once they commence: (1) the attackers are not afraid to die; so a large police presence is not a deterrent, and (2) that they are extremely careful in letting others know of their intentions; therefore, eliminating community members from knowing about them objectives. Accordingly, the most effective way to prevent the occurrence of a terrorist act would be through surveillance and undercover operations. Moreover, since terrorism, as mentioned, is often local, national and global at the same time, surveillance and undercover operations will often require the local, state, federal and international to work together in identifying, monitoring, and arresting suspects. In short, it is a very complex and time-consuming activity that cannot be done effectively without cooperation and information sharing.


In the criminal justice system, perhaps the easiest way to reduce or eliminate the threat of crime is to simply hire and deploy more police officers. Indeed, the more officers that are available to staff a police force: the larger the law enforcement presence is on the streets; the more detectives and special agents there are to investigate criminal acts; and the more arrests can be made and therefore the more criminals or criminal influences can be eliminated from the community. In addition, increasing the use and integration of technology into crime fighting such as the above mention hot spot mapping, as well as forensic technologies, public surveillance including CCTV all would be helpful in reducing the risk of crime. It is important to note, that most if not all of these mitigation strategies can be initiated, considered, funded and implemented by local and state authorities without the need for federal assistance. Mitigation strategies are often limited
In regards to terrorist acts, the starting point of any mitigation strategy is ensuring that local law enforcement is capable of handling crime control situations. This should include ensuring the capabilities described directly above. In addition, local law enforcement authorities must have open lines of communication to state, national and international law enforcement authorities so that they have the ability to move on a suspect or assist, state or national authorities move on a suspect as required. Third, and perhaps, most importantly, law enforcement authorities need the ability detect potential terrorist threats as early as possible. Generally, this will be the responsibility of a national law enforcement agency working in cooperation with its international or foreign counterpart. Consequently, any effective mitigation strategy for terrorism will require the coordination, funding and assistance of local, state, national, and often international law enforcement authorities.


In the event that a crime or a terrorist cannot be prevented from happening, the next step for law enforcement is the identification, arrest, and prosecution of the perpetrator. In terms of crime, this usually involves focusing on a specific local area and includes the ability of law enforcement to limit the routes of escape for a suspect. For a terrorist act, the scope of investigation could be anywhere in the world, including jurisdiction where law enforcement authorities cannot easily access or are even prevented from entering.

Benefits and Limits of Prevention and Enforcement

While having an effective means to prevent, mitigate and enforce; it is not always possible to accomplish all with the same level of success. The benefit of focusing on prevention is that it eliminates the need for enforcement. From both a terrorist and criminal activity perspective, this means that there will be no victims injured or property stolen or destroyed. The limit of prevention is that it requires the continuous use of a substantial amount to personnel and resources at the beginning and throughout the process. Moreover, it is nearly impossible to deter the determined terrorist or criminal. Conversely, the benefit of enforcement is that it is much easier for law enforcement to initiate an effective response once it knows about the threat and its capabilities. This is especially strengthened by the fact that no criminal or terrorist is prefect; and will most likely make a mistake at some point. The limit of enforcement, however, is that more often than not it occurs after a victim has been injured or property is stolen or damaged.

Effect on the Economy

Although terrorist acts such as the 9/11 attacks, the Boston marathon bombing, and the recent shootings in San Bernardino result in substantial financial costs, such as the losses accrued by the airline industry in 2000 or the loss in tourism revenue that Boston may have suffered in the immediate aftermath bombings; the fact of the matter is that the damage and injuries caused in these attacks was “not enough to have had a measurable effect on the productive capacity of the United States” (Makinen, 2002). In short, terrorist acts seem to cause a one-time financial injury; that is soon overcome. The most likely, reason for this is that terrorist acts are generally rare. Crime, on the other hand, is a daily fact of life in the U.S. Consequently, its effect on the economy is much more significant. For example, cybercrime, which has been called the common crime of the modern information age, is reported to have a major and continuing adverse effect on the U.S. economy. Intellectual property theft, which is just one form of cybercrime, is estimated to cost the economy U.S. $445 billion in losses a year (Sind-Flor, 2014).

Psychological Factor

While the economic effect of terrorist acts may not be unbearable, the psychological effect of terrorism can and has been debilitating. One of the immediate psychological effects of the 9/11 attacks, for instance, was the shutting down on nearly the entire U.S. airline and aviation industry. This was based on an unconfirmed and now deemed unreasonable fear that hijackers were or could take over other planes. In addition, since 9/11 one of the most malicious psychological effects has been the rise in racial and ethnic profiling of Arabs and people from the Middle East. Criminal activity, also has a psychological effect, such as the profiling of African American and Hispanics/Latinos as most likely to be criminals. However, the effect is less pronounced than terrorism. This is most likely because most people feel that they can better control how, when or if a criminal act happens to them.
In conclusion does terrorism or criminal activity pose a bigger challenge to law enforcement? While terrorism has the potential to cause significant damage and injury; it nevertheless rarely occurs and when it does only effects a limited number of people or limited area of space. Crime, as mentioned, is a daily fact of life that has the potential to effect a wide-range of people. For example, hacking into a bank’s computer network can affect millions of people at the same time. Moreover, the effects of crime can have ongoing effects. For instance, identity fraud can ruin a person’s credit and reputation for years after the fact. Based on these examples and the discussion above, it is clear the crime is a bigger challenge for law enforcement.


Luban, D., O’Sulliva, J.R., & Stewart, D.P. (2010). International and Transnational Criminal Law. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers.
Makinen, G. (2002, Sep. 27). The economic effects of 9/11: A retrospective assessment. Retrieved from
Slind-Flor, V. (2014, Jun. 10). Cybercrime, Schneider, Dotcom: Intellectual Property. Retrieved from

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