Recently, I appeared on Fox News to explain the need for increased police presence and intelligence-gathering in New York City’s Muslim neighborhoods. Since then, I’ve been called a racist and a bigot.
My views are being misrepresented. I don’t want anyone displaying suspicion of Muslims. I don’t dispute for a moment American Muslims’ love for our shared country. In fact, I think it’s an untapped weapon against terror. Let me explain.
After every terrorist attack, the cry goes out, “Why weren’t we ready?” “Why didn’t we have the intelligence?” All too often, we learn that the perpetrators were living among us, hiding out for weeks or months in plain sight.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton has done a great job of preparing us for a possible terrorist attack, but what we really need to do is stop attacks before they happen. The only way to do that is to be proactive in our intelligence gathering.
If police wanted to infiltrate the Italian mob, they would send Italian officers into Italian neighborhoods to meet the locals, speak their language and establish relationships to gain valuable information from the people who live and work with suspects. We should use the same methods to combat terror.
If we’re going to find these killers before they kill, we need to look where they’re likely to be. So yes, I want to increase police presence in Muslim neighborhoods, but I don’t want to persecute American Muslims. I don’t want police to stop and question every Muslim they see. I don’t want to put spies in Muslim homes and businesses. I don’t want to accuse or intimidate Muslims.
The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding citizens who love their families and want them to be safe. They need to see that law enforcement is there to protect them. American Muslims want to fight terror as much as anyone, and I want them to know we understand that.
First of all, I’m not just talking about stepping up police presence in Muslim areas; I’m talking about stepping up Muslim police presence there. There are hundreds of Muslim officers in the NYPD.
Dress some of them in plainclothes and put them on the streets of Muslim communities to meet the people and gain their trust. Send Arabic-speaking officers in uniform into these areas to communicate with the locals in their native tongue. Let the police gather intelligence from the people who are most likely to have it.
Muslim Americans love this country as much as anyone. We can’t afford to ignore what a valuable asset they can be to law enforcement. The terrorists who attacked Paris and Brussels were renting apartments in both cities and shipping weapons between these safe houses. Who knows what suspicious activity their neighbors saw or what incriminating conversations they overheard?
Should Muslim Americans ever notice potential terrorist activity in their neighborhood, there must be Muslim, Arabic-speaking police officers around to whom they can bring this invaluable information without hesitation or fear.
In addition to recruiting the help of the city’s Muslim population, we must also turn some terrorists themselves to our side. One of the Brussels bombers wrote that he was eager to blow himself up because he was afraid of being jailed for his previous crimes.
The police have always used confidential informants — criminals who cooperate with law enforcement in exchange for some degree of amnesty — to infiltrate and surveil dangerous organizations. We must locate terrorists with existing criminal records and make them our informants as well.
Former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told me that this type of intelligence has already helped prevent multiple terrorist attacks in New York City, yet the political-correctness fanatics are calling it bigotry.
They’re wrong. By refusing to step up legitimate, community-oriented policing in Muslim neighborhoods, we’re doing a disservice to our Muslim citizens, who, simply by living near where weapons and bombs are being built and stockpiled, are in the most immediate danger. We’re also putting all our lives at risk.
This threat may have originated in the Middle East, but after Paris, San Bernardino and Brussels we know that our enemies are now embedded among us. If it’s politically incorrect to go searching for terrorists where we can reasonably expect terrorists to be, then political correctness will kill us.
Bo Dietl is chairman and CEO of Beau Dietl Associates, a private investigation and security firm based in New York City. Investigations.com.