Why care about Community Safety?

 In Community Safety

Community safety is knowing others in civil society are looking out for my safety because they know I am looking out for their safety. It’s as simple as that, applying the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Any community that’s a cooperative and caring one has the Golden Rule as its bedrock.  The reality, however, in our fast-pace, get rich, me-first contemporary society is that not everyone follows the Golden Rule.  And, tragically, some people actively want to do us harm.

With live in a world under a constant cloud of terrorism with daily news stories of yet another act of violent extremism at a school, in a park, on a bikeway, in a subway, at a supermarket, or a nightclub, by a car or truck running down people in the street, and in a home where violence has erupted.

Do you remember, the horrific event that erupted on 22 July 2011 at a sleepy little idyllic island just 25 miles northwest of Oslo on the Norwegian coastline? It was the day, Anders Breivik decided after nine years of planning that this was the day he would massacre the youth of the Social Democratic Party of Norway.  He succeeded in killing 69 young people on that island in his murderous shooting spree before surrendering, an hour and half later, to police.  He stated in testimony at his trial that the killing, while regrettable was necessary, to bring about an uprising in Norwegian society against what he considered a deplorable immigration policy by the ruling Labour Party, which he saw as diluting threat the true national identity of the Norwegian race by allowing Muslim immigration.

The point is that during those nine years of planning by Breivik there were a few, and only a few, signs of what is called ‘behavioural leakage’, where a person’s real intentions are ‘leaked’ out in some of their inconsistent, unusual, odd, out-of-the-ordinary, or suspicious behaviours.

Breivik didn’t give much away.  He covered his tracks well.  He put out disinformation about his past involvement in a right-wing extremist group.  He bought a farm so he could legitimately purchase lots of the fertilizer he needed to make the bomb[1] he set off in Oslo at Government offices. The bomb was a decoy to distract police while he took a nice little ferry boat ride to Utoya Island to begin his shooting spree. He didn’t communicate his violently extreme intentions to anyone, until after the bloody massacre.

In spite of all his meticulous planning, Breivik did give away a few behavioural signs (dots) of his intending killing rampage. Tragically,’ joining up these dots to see the pattern’ never happened in Breivik’s case.

A violent extremist only has to get it right once.  Police and security services have to get it right all the time.  The odds are stacked against them.   The community cannot expect the police and security agencies to get it right all the time, in spite of the fact that many would-be terrorism and extremist plots in Australia have been foiled by great police and security work.

Unfortunately, the reality is – one day, a violent extremist will get through the security barrier here in Australia. Where will you be on that day and what will you be doing?  Hopefully, you will be the alert citizen contributing to ‘joining up the dots to see the pattern’ before tragedy happens; again and again.

Dr. Geoff Dean


[1] His decoy car bomb killed a further 8 people and injured hundreds in central Oslo.

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