THE MAGAZINE

Trends in Terrorism Targets

By Matthew Harwood

Thus, the goal now is to find security strategies that are both effective and affordable. Israel, according to Jenkins, has a cost-effective security model worth emulating. In another report, Jenkins and two coauthors studied 16 cases of terrorist attacks, both lethal and nonlethal, against Israeli buses and bus stations during the Second Intifada. What Jenkins discovered is that many of the attacks were defeated or mitigated by alert bus drivers and an aware citizenry—a cost-effective counterterrorism tool that can be adopted by public transportation security stakeholders in other countries.

Ganor Boaz, director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Israel, says the challenge of the Israeli approach is that it starts early by educating children in security awareness. “When I was a kid, even in the kindergarten, they taught us to be aware of abandoned and suspicious objects,” he says, which triggers an “embryonic instinct” to look around for suspicious objects when he hears overhead security announcements. That awareness was also stoked by the very real danger of bombings that became the fabric of everyday life in Israel and has produced a young, resilient population. That kind of awareness hasn’t permeated the American consciousness.

Israeli bus drivers also receive specific security training, such as suspicious-behavior recognition-training. And this approach has paid off, says Boaz. In one memorable incident, a bus driver in Tel Aviv realized that a suspicious passenger was boarding the bus. “He pushed him out” and the suspicious passenger fell out of the bus on his back. During the fall, his hands came out of his pockets. Two youths from the front row of the bus jumped out and held his hands to prevent him from triggering a bomb that he was carrying with him. The bus took off and the youngsters eventually fled in different directions. Immediately, the passenger got up, found a woman in the station and detonated himself, killing them both.

“Although there was a woman who died in this attack, it’s still regarded as a magnificent success of those security procedures,” he says.

That same sort of engaged staff and citizens also helped Great Britain thwart Irish Republican Army bombings against surface transportation targets from the 1970s into the 1990s.

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