LA terrorism task force partners with faith-based communities to combat possible attacks

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
LA task force works with faith-based communities to combat possible terror attacks
The Los Angeles County's Joint Terrorism Task Force said one of its greatest weapons against an attack is its bond with the community.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- From trucks laden with explosives to suicide bombers, Los Angeles County's Joint Terrorism Task Force regularly conducts drills to contain a range of terrorist strikes.

Yet law enforcement officials said there is one tool that separates Los Angeles from Paris. It is community policing, a partnership cultivated with multiple faith-based organizations, including the Muslim community.

"In the last 14 years since 9/11, four out of 10 terrorist plots here have been foiled because a community member has stepped forward and cooperated with law enforcement," said Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force includes 50 members of local, state and federal law enforcement. Muslim groups act as advisers and, with dialogue, have developed a trust relationship.

On Monday, Al-Marayati said that local Muslims are more likely to contact law enforcement when they see suspicious activity. Within Muslim organizations, they can intervene when someone appears to pose a threat.

"I believe this unity and partnership has fended off the terrorist ideology," Al-Marayti said.

Youth employment opportunities and diversion programs included in this approach have won recognition from the White House, and now serve as a national model.

It's comparable to the war on gangs, according to LAPD Deputy Chief Mike Downing.

"We couldn't arrest our way out of the problem," Downing said. "We had to find ways to build off-ramps for people who may have it in their mind that this is what they want to do, but they haven't yet mobilized to violence."

"You can't just win with a hammer," said former FBI agent and ABC News counter-terrorism expert, Steve Gomez, who affirmed the power of community pressure on extremists.

"Everybody has got to come together and say, 'hey, you're kind of going off the rails here,'" he added.

It's an alliance that does not exist in Paris and Al-Maryati said it is crucial to keep the dialogue going.

"Because ISIS wants to divide us as Americans...they promote death, we promote the Islamic ideology of life," Al Maryati said.