Small Wars Journal

Countering Criminal Street Gangs: Lessons from the Counterinsurgent Battlespace

Thu, 11/15/2012 - 5:30am

Editor's Note: SWJ would like to thank theIllinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board's Executive Institute for allowing us to republish this article.  It was originally published in Law Enforcement Executive Forum 12(3).

A Shared Culture of Criminal Behavior

Criminal street gang members are not insurgents, and street gangs are not insurgencies. Law enforcement agencies are not the military, and our cities are not legitimate battlefields. However, insurgent fighters operating in countries around the globe and domestic street gang members engaged in criminal behavior share more in common than we often care to openly admit. The most obvious similarities between the two groups can be described based upon what we overtly note:

• Ability to easily blend into the population, making initial detection and apprehension difficult

• Activities that hold the population they operate within “hostage”

• Furtherance of activities based upon population response, be that response supportive, coercion through fear or reprisal, or acquiescence

• Attempt to expand operations through recruitment of local population

• Operations executed under no legitimate “Rules of Engagement”—that is, open hostilities and use of force against any other person within the population

The similarities, however, extend much deeper than just the above surface treatment. According to the U.S. Army’s (2006) publication, FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency, an insurgency is “an organized, protracted politico-military struggle designed to weaken the control and legitimacy of an established government, occupying power, or other political authority while increasing insurgent control” (p. 1.1). The manual goes on to define counterinsurgency as “military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency” (p. 1.1). These definitions can easily be rephrased to apply to criminal street gang activity: “an organized, protracted criminal endeavor that weakens the control and legitimacy of government and civic authority while increasing gang control over the community”; and law enforcement efforts against the criminal street gang: “legal, procedural, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat the criminal street gang.”

Several studies have specifically addressed the concept of legitimacy in law enforcement (Kelling & Coles, 1996; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997; Sunshine & Tyler, 2003; Tyler & Huo, 2002). Sunshine and Tyler (2003) examined perceptions regarding police legitimacy in New York residents and found that citizens are more apt to openly and actively support the police when they perceive the police to be a legitimate authority, and the perception of the police as a legitimate authority is dependant upon the fairness of the procedures applied by the police.

The perception of legitimacy places the population on a tipping point and makes the struggle, as David Kilcullen (2010) writes in his book Counterinsurgency, one of “contested governance” (p. 1). For the criminal street gang, the struggle for control is de facto; they have no legitimate governance, but their criminal actions, intimidation, and use of violence have allowed them to gain a margin of control over the local community. It may also be argued that their willful disregard for the law is itself a manner of contested governance; they categorically reject the legitimate authority through their criminal actions.

The military and law enforcement communities have recognized the similarities between insurgent fighters and street gang members for some time. In preparing for counterinsurgency operations, the military has trained directly with domestic law enforcement agencies (Calese, 2005; Musa, Morgan, & Keegan, 2011; Watson, 2010). Calese (2005) examined the similarities between insurgent organizations and criminal street gangs and determined five shared characteristics: (1) leadership within the organization, (2) organizational structure, (3) culture within the organization, (4) recruitment, and (5) finances. He concludes by suggesting five concepts that the Army should adopt from law enforcement for use against insurgent organizations: (1) a “cultural shift” from killing the enemy to winning popular support in the local population; (2) the need to accurately determine the identity of members within the population; (3) a use of intelligence software to track insurgents and manage crime data; (4) a “community policing” style of operations aimed at working with local civic leaders; and (5) the development of “street knowledge,” learning the motivators and cultural mores for the local population. These suggestions are included within the Army’s (2006) FM 3-24 Counterinsurgency and are distilled succinctly early on in the manual’s 13 principles for counterinsurgency:

1. Legitimacy is the main objective. 

2. Unity of effort is essential. 

3. Political factors are primary. 

4. Counterinsurgents must understand the environment. 

5. Intelligence drives operations. 

6. Insurgents must be isolated from their cause and support. 

7. Security under the rule of law is essential. 

8. Counterinsurgents must prepare for a long-term commitment. 

9. Manage information and expectations.

10. Use the appropriate level of force.

11. Learn and adapt.

12. Empower the lowest levels.

13. Support the host nation. (pp. 1.20-1.26)

Major Michael L. Burgoyne (2011), U.S. Army, examined how each of these principles might be applied to law enforcement operations against criminal street gangs in his study “The Right Tool for the Job: An Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Counterinsurgency Principles Against Criminal Insurgency.” Burgoyne examined the favela gangs of Rio de Janeiro and the Medellin and Cali Cartels of Colombia, comparing each of the 13 principles outlined in FM 3-24 (U.S. Army, 2006) against the law enforcement operations utilized against them. Burgoyne (2011) found that both efforts used several of the 13 principles with differing rates of success. In Rio’s operations against the favela gangs, 11 of the 13 principles were used successfully, and the overall operations against the favela gangs were vital in breaking apart the criminal organizations. In Colombia, six of the 13 principles were used successfully, with three specifically noted as not achieved or failed. These three principles were (1) Government Legitimacy, (2) Rule of Law, and (3) Information Operations (p. 33). Burgoyne reasons that because narcotrafficking organizations have as a center of gravity financing operations and do not rely on local popular support in order to be effective, counterinsurgency principles that focus on establishing government legitimacy (population-centric strategy) are not effective. Rather, a focus on high-ranking individuals within the organizations and the appropriate financing centers of gravity (enemy-centric strategy) is more successful (pp. 33-34). Burgoyne notes that the counterinsurgency strategy is not simply “plug-and-play” but that the principles of counterinsurgency as described in FM 3-24 (U.S. Army, 2006) should be included as part of operational analysis and planning:


The development of a more comprehensive analysis framework that integrates tools used for gangs, organized crime, terrorism, and insurgency would be a valuable tool for policymakers and practitioners. An insurgency framework alone is insufficient. (I)nsurgency and COIN (counterinsurgency) insights should remain part of threat analysis and campaign design. (Burgoyne, 2011, p. 55)

A Manner of Strategy

Within the counterinsurgency debate, there are two commonly contested strategies: (1) enemy-centric and (2) population-centric. Enemy-centric strategies focus on direct action against insurgent fighters, using raids and sweeps to actively seek out and eliminate enemy combatants. Proponents argue that it is through the elimination of these malefactors in the population that the insurgency is brought to a close. Detractors argue that direct action and raids threaten the local population through collateral damage and the alienation of local people. Population-centric strategies put the bulk of the operating energy toward establishing host nation government legitimacy, working to bring the local population onto their side through increased security and service restoration, thereby cutting off the insurgents from access to support. Proponents argue that this approach is more effective because it cuts insurgents off from needed resources, prevents new insurgents from being created, and allows the counterinsurgency to establish legitimacy in the eyes of the local population. Detractors argue that the strategy is wholly ineffective; local residents are not “fence-sitters” trying to decide with which group they will side.

Another counterinsurgency strategy that continues to draw traction is leadership-centric strategy, which asserts that the outcome between insurgents and counterinsurgents is wholly dependant upon which side has better leaders. In A Question of Command, Dr. Mark Moyar (2009) describes these leaders as not only being strategically and tactically proficient but as being charismatically superior to their enemies. The side that has the strongest leadership personalities and can rally its fighters and the population around them will be the victor.

FM 3-24 (U.S. Army, 2006) is written with a population-centric strategy. The effectiveness of this strategy in counterinsurgency warfare is an active subject for debate within the military, but for policing, it provides a thoroughly tested application of community policing against aggressive and armed groups who would actively seek to do violence against authority. As violence perpetrated by criminal street gang members against each other and the police continues to intensify, law enforcement has more than a passing interest in examining the lessons learned through the application of population-centric counterinsurgency strategy as described in FM 3-24.

The 19 Articles of Policing Criminal Street Gangs

The creation of guiding principles in counterinsurgency warfare is not a new one. T. E. Lawrence wrote his Twenty-Seven Articles in 1917, describing what he believed were the necessary requirements for any counterinsurgency leader or advisor operating in an Arab-populated region. The most recent doctrinal principles were written into the FM 3-24 (U.S. Army, 2006) and listed earlier in this document. Dr. David Kilcullen (2006) provided his own, modern rendition of Lawrence when he wrote “Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency.” Like Lawrence, these articles were based upon his own observations of what worked in counterinsurgency operations. Unlike Lawrence, however, these Articles had the benefit of being field-tested and compared to an established counterinsurgency doctrine.

By using what has been written into population-centric counterinsurgency theory and strategy and combining it with both the lessons learned through their application and with lessons learned through years of community policing in urban locations with entrenched criminal street gang problems, it is possible to create a similar list of field-tested “Articles” for policing street gangs. Utilizing the structural format offered most recently by Kilcullen (2006), what follows are those principles. These principles are described individually, but experience indicates that their application as a well-integrated whole offers the best chance of success. As principles, they serve to create a firm foundation upon which specific strategies and operations should be built.

First Do No Harm. Do nothing to tarnish your integrity, your agency’s integrity, or your profession’s integrity. Your primary purpose is to protect the residents of your area and to impartially enforce the law. A reputation as a fair and just officer will increase your public legitimacy. Citizens are more likely to actively assist you by providing information if they know you will treat them and others fairly.

Know Your Turf. Know the streets, the alleys, and the parking lots. Know which streets dead-end and which alleys end in “T” intersections. Know how to get from one place to another in multiple ways. Know the gangsters and the dealers. Know the drug corners, the gang hangouts, and the location where gangs recruit new members—including the schools. Know the gang members by name and by face; recognize them at each contact you have so you know with whom you are speaking. Know which gangs operate in your area and what their territorial boundaries are. You should know where you are at all times and what gang territory you are in at all times. When conducting a vehicle stop, you should instantly know if the occupants are gang members and if they are in a rival’s territory. Learn the gang identifiers: the graffiti, the colors, the manner of dress, and the hand signs. Know the individual members and what they do in the gang: you should recognize enforcers, dealers, and higher-ranking members by name and sight. Know who the “good guys” are: the businesspeople, the families, and the kids. Be able to identify when they might need your help and be able to call them by name. If you don’t know the turf, you can’t effectively police it.

Diagnose the Problem. How widespread is the gang problem? How many members are in the gang(s)? What is their purpose? Are they concerned only with territory, or are they invested in illegal narcotics trade? Who is in competition or conflict with whom? Why? How aggressive are they with recruitment? Once these questions are answered, you begin to get an accurate picture of the problem. If you are in command, sit with your field supervisors and field commanders. Ask them what they see or how they have been dealing with the problems. Solicit opinions, find out what has worked, and design new operations. Work the problem as often as is necessary.

Organize for Intelligence. Create methods of intelligence gathering within your own command. Ask your field supervisors to bring in information from the street. Encourage the collection of intelligence from your officers on the street—they have the direct contact with the community and the gang members. If your command has units designated for street-level anti-gang, anti-narcotics, or plainclothes operations, ensure that the information they gather is shared with patrol officers and vice versa. Task someone in your command or a small group in your command to collect, maintain, and disseminate the intelligence. Intelligence must be useful and it must be timely, so encourage the regular updating and dissemination of it. Set aside a regular time to meet with your field supervisors and ensure that operations are driven by the most recent and relevant intelligence. Resist the temptation to leave intelligence gathering and distribution to units outside your command that have those functions as their primary purpose. No one knows your streets like your own people, and they will know it better when you put a premium on their own intelligence-gathering efforts. Remember that you are responsible for your own area of operations, so gather your own intelligence and design your operations around it.

Organize for Intra- and, When Possible, Inter-Agency Operations. You are not the only law enforcement unit in your region and, if your agency is large enough, you may not be the only unit from your own agency operating in the area. Be sure that your command is speaking with other commands about operations in your area. If they are working on something in your area, you have a stake in the outcome. You should at least be aware of the basics of those operations. Whenever possible, seek direct input in these operations or be included in the planning and execution. Understand that at certain times your inclusion may not be warranted or complete. Nevertheless, be sure that your command continues to speak across open lines of communication with your own agency’s assets. Do not neglect agencies outside your own, including other municipal agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and local civic or business agencies. If they are in your area, they have a stake in your area. Meet regularly to share information and pool resources. The eradication of criminal street gangs is not just a law enforcement problem, it is a civic problem and it is a community problem. A holistic approach that coordinates law enforcement operations with civic needs is required. Clean, well-lit neighborhoods with basic civic services, well-populated with local residents and shoppers, is as much a part of the solution as search warrant service and open-air drug market closures.

Find and Build Trust with Local Community Advisors. These advisors may be clergy, business owners, or vocal community residents. They may be several of each. Find these local people and include them in your operations. Give them a forum in which to speak, and include as many of their suggestions as possible. Understand that it may not be possible to accomplish all that they want, and that the wants of certain people may be contrary to the wants of others in the group. Seek the common ground and work to resolve those issues. For your operations to be successful, you need to win the trust of these people. They, in turn, will go out into the community and win you the trust of those who trust them. This will affirm your legitimacy as the authority in the area, and intelligence will begin to make its way back to you. Remember that the first Article is “First, do no harm.” Your officers must consistently behave in a manner that is fair and respectful to local residents. Any inappropriate actions will undermine your efforts to build trust with your community advisor(s).

Develop Your Field Supervisors—Then Trust Them. If you are in a position of command, the development and training of your supervisors rests on your shoulders. Set a standard, train to that standard, and hold your supervisors accountable to that standard. If you have successfully developed your supervisors, you must then give them the room to operate. If their strategic vision is aligned with your own, you must empower them with the authority to make the critical, minute-by-minute tactical decisions. A constant command oversight—micromanaging—signals that you do not trust them. If you must micromanage your supervisors, you have not adequately developed them. Step back. Their success is a product of your successful development of them. 

Push Operational Decisionmaking Down the Chain. At first glance, this sounds very much like “Develop your field supervisors—then trust them,” but it is much more. The nature of all bureaucratic organizations with a defined rank structure is to centralize approval authority. As accountability rises through the chain of command, so does operational control. This is a mistake. Requiring field commanders and supervisors to constantly seek approval up through the chain of command takes time, stifles creativity, and kills initiative. Developing field supervisors and granting them the authority to act is part of the solution. You must organize for intelligence and plan for operations at this level. Many law enforcement agencies centralize this as well, holding monthly accountability and intelligence-sharing briefings at the upper-most command levels. While this may be beneficial in understanding the overall picture and ensuring that the mission of the agency as a whole is being maintained, it offers little help to field commanders and field supervisors who are confronted with daily operational needs. Organize your intelligence and operational efforts around these field units and allow them to make the operational decisions they need to make on a daily basis.

Rank Is Important—Talent Is More Important. Respect for rank must remain, but the simple fact of the matter is that some people are better at policing than others. Certain officers have a “nose” for certain aspects of policing. These people should be actively sought out in your command and moved into positions in which their talents can be fully developed and utilized. If this means that a police officer reports directly to a commander, so be it. The goal is to develop strategies and operations that significantly impact crime in your area and eliminate criminal street gangs and the violence associated with them. Do not let rank prevent you from putting the best people in the best spots.

Stability in Strategy; Agility in Operations. Too many agencies vest their interests in a single theory of policing: Broken Windows, Community Policing, Pulling Levers, Intelligence Led, etc. For a strategy to have the best chance at success, it must be implemented for a long enough period of time to deliver demonstrable results, and it must be designed to allow for adaptation as the environment adapts around it. This means that, at any time, elements from one or more of the policing theories may need to be utilized. Do not let any theory or doctrine lock you into a singular course of action. Have the built-in ability to evolve in strategic design as the operational environment requires. Use adaptive strategies—strategies that have at their core a cycle of understanding the environment as it currently exists, designing strategies to affect relationships in the environment, influencing those relationships to change the environment in an intended manner, and evaluating the environmental response. Strategies that adapt to the environment by design are stable; the desired end state remains the same throughout, but the tactics used to reach that end state are as fluid as the situation on the ground dictates. It is this fluidity that necessitates agility in operations. The area you operate within is a complex environment. It is affected by relationships within it. These relationships include those that exist between members of any one gang, between different gangs, and between your operations against them. The complexity added by how your actions and the actions of the criminal street gangs affect local residents and businesses also cannot be ignored. What results is a complex web of relationships in which actions by any one player affect the others in the web. Because of this complexity, operations must be tailored to fit the environment as it exists at that time. When any operation is concluded, the environment within which it has been executed changes. This change may necessitate new types of operations to be successful. Use your intelligence gathering to assess your impact on the environment after each operation. Ask, “Based upon what we have done, how have things now changed? What must we now do to keep pressure on the gang?” Your strategy has a determined goal; your operations must remain agile enough to constantly evolve but must always drive you toward the determined strategic conclusion.

Avoid the Vacuum. In traditional Maneuver Warfare theory, it is advised to locate and eliminate an enemy’s center of gravity. Doing so eliminates leadership or command and control, throwing the opposing force into confusion and collapse. For policing, however, this approach is problematic. The apprehension of gang leaders often results in a power vacuum within the gang that leads to internal violence for control of the organization and/or external violence from rivals who recognize vulnerability. In counterinsurgency operations, there is a similar difficulty in destroying the insurgent center of gravity, though for differing reasons. To combat insurgent groups, special operations forces have created joint special operations task forces (JSOTF) that combine multidisciplinary intelligence, surveillance, and operations (Faint & Harris, 2012; Flynn, Juergens, & Cantrell, 2008). Working in concert, the JSOTF uses a targeting model known as Find, Fix, Finish, Exploit, and Analyze (F3EA). Utilizing a decentralized, mass intelligence-gathering capability, operators are able to find the enemy, fix their location, and quickly move in to finish that enemy off. Information gathered on-scene is exploited for new intelligence and then analyzed to drive the next operation. This cyclical pattern has proven tremendously effective in dismantling insurgent networks by targeting and eliminating mid-level planners and operators. This type of counternetwork operations is ideal for combating criminal street gangs because it prevents a power vacuum and the resultant violence created when an organizational center of gravity is removed. Granted, the most ideal operations result in the simultaneous apprehension of gang leaders and mid-level operators, but such large-scale sweeps are difficult to accomplish and take time to execute. The F3EA model allows for immediate operations against the street gang, resulting in immediate results. Once the mid-level operators and rivals for power within the gang are removed, the leader(s) may be apprehended with decreased opportunity for either increased violence or overall gang resurgence. 

Be There. There is no substitute for physical presence. Get out and be seen. Meet with your local advisors at their locations. Be seen by the population. Make sure your officers are seen. Encourage them to get out of the car and talk with people. Information is gathered when questions are asked, so encourage officers to speak with people. Let everyone know you are there and are interested. Don’t expect arrests alone to raise your public profile. You must show the local residents that you are there for them, too—that you are interested in their well-being. As your public profile rises and people begin to know and trust you, information will begin to flow in.

Prepare for Your Handover from Day One. No command lasts indefinitely. Ensure that the strategies you have in place, the organizational culture, and the operational practices you have implemented last longer than you do. Lead by example, cultivate buy-in, and ensure that any transition in command is as seamless as possible.

Maintain Proactive Patrolling. Be sure your officers are not static. Constant movement raises perceptions of officer presence and keeps officers alert. Utilize tactics that supplement regular patrol presence with periods of heightened presence, or double up cars into tandem patrol units. Do not wait for spikes in criminal activity to do this. Rather, do it on a regular basis on an irregular schedule. Remain unpredictable and keep the initiative. 

Be Prepared for Setbacks. Crime will still occur on your watch, people will still be shot, and the public’s confidence in your efforts may become strained. These are realities in law enforcement. Do not let these things convince you that your strategic plan has failed or that your supervisors and officers are not worthy of the strategic plan. Organize your intelligence, debrief your people, adapt the strategic plan, and carry on your operations.

Develop Meaningful Metrics and Evaluate Them Regularly. Quantitative data is most often preferred because the figures are often unambiguous. As a result, the common belief is “the more quantitative data the better.” The result is that success is measured by a large number of easy-to-collect data. Progress is measured in number of traffic citations issued, arrests made, street stops conducted, etc. The problem with these types of measurements, however, is that they encourage the type of increased activity that can lead to rights abuses and detract from your legitimacy. As your legitimacy is compromised, so are your intelligence-gathering capabilities and your operational efficacy. Develop more useful metrics, such as the number of successful tips voluntarily reported to police or rates of gang-upon-gang violence. Develop qualitative metrics with your trusted community advisors and rate public perception of safety and law enforcement efficacy. It is counterintuitive that the common goal of almost all community policing-styled theories is to focus officer activity toward enforcing “quality of life” offenses yet utilize no qualitative data to measure success. Law enforcement agencies are naturally averse toward using qualitative data because the belief is that they are difficult to accurately measure; opinions vary on this. The problem, however, is not one of accuracy but one of perspective. When the opinion of your officers and your trusted community advisors are aligned, then your qualitative data is meaningful and useful. This alignment is a direct result of building your relationships with your trusted community advisors and designing a strategy that addresses their concerns in a manner that both fulfills their needs and accomplishes your law enforcement goals. Develop these metrics and measure your progress against them regularly to ensure you are moving toward the strategic goal.

Keep Local Initiatives Small. Part of your strategy should include programs that directly connect your officers with the community. These efforts should seek to establish rapport, build trust, and create understanding between your officers and local residents. Programs may also be developed that encourage local youth to work with police, be these programs law enforcement related or be they agency participation in community-sponsored sports programs or similar activities. Keep these programs or your involvement in them small, inexpensive, and highly sustainable. It erodes public confidence when police participation is missing or subtracted due to time or budgetary constraints. Create positive engagement with the community in a manner that is built to last.

Put a Premium on Leadership. Develop your own leadership capabilities and the leadership capabilities of all of your field commanders, supervisors, and officers. Leadership development should be an organizational imperative, and agencies should create internal leadership development programs. If such programs simply are not a reality in your agency, encourage your people to develop their own leadership capabilities by offering whatever support and developmental programs you can. Lead by example, mentor subordinates, and encourage participation in outside programs. Create a leadership and command “library,” and encourage your people to read the materials. Moyar (2009) argues that leadership is not only the single greatest determining factor in success between combating groups, he offers ten leadership attributes that he believes history has consistently shown to be most important for leadership success:

1. Initiative – The ability to act without specific guidance from above and the propensity to act energetically and aggressively

2. Flexibility – The ability to switch rapidly from one thought or action to another

3. Creativity – The ability to solve new problems or the ability to create new solutions to existing problems

4. Judgment – The use of logic and intuition to evaluate information and make sound decisions

5. Empathy – The ability to appreciate the feelings and opinions of others

6. Charisma – The collection of personal factors that draws others to you

7. Sociability – The ability to connect with others in a one-on-one interaction

8. Dedication – The wherewithal to put in hard work and remain consistent and focused in any endeavor

9. Integrity – Acting in accordance to what is right, even at personal cost; maintaining ethics and principle

10. Organization – The ability to maintain personal discipline, coordinate people and actions, and accurately account for resources (pp. 8-11)

Maintain the Initiative. We use phrases like proactive patrolling and visible deterrence to imply that we maintain the initiative, but the reality is that much of what we do in regard to criminal street gangs is reactionary. Operations targeting drug sales and investigations following shootings are reactionary measures to what the gangs are doing. We must do a better job at grabbing the true initiative. To do this, we must develop adaptive strategies that evolve as the environment in which we operate does, we must use our intelligence to drive our operations, and we must put a constant pressure on the criminal street gang that disrupts, destabilizes, and dismantles their organization. As organizations, gangs are adept at adapting to law enforcement efforts. Our strategy and our operations must not allow for any adaptation to occur. A constant, destabilizing series of law enforcement operations puts the street gang in a reactive posture and, thus, directly affects their ability to coordinate their criminal endeavors and to conceal those endeavors from law enforcement. Inefficiency leads to chaos; chaos leads to collapse. The successful employment of each of the above Articles creates and allows for the continuation of the initiative.

A Strategy Already at Work

The adaptation of counterinsurgency strategy to policing criminal street gangs has already taken place. In 2009, Massachusetts State Police troopers Michael Cutone and Thomas Sarrouf, two Green Berets and Iraq War veterans, initiated what would become Counter Criminal Continuum (C3) Policing in Springfield, Massachusetts (Hibbard, Barbieri, Domnarski, & Cutone, 2011). Using lessons learned from time spent working with residents in Iraq and their knowledge of counterinsurgency strategy, the troopers created a set of eight guiding principles and focused their community-collaborative efforts on an eight-block section of gang-infested neighborhood in northern Springfield (Goode, 2012). Nearly three years into the strategy, results show decreases in violent crimes, property crimes, and weapons offenses (Massachusetts State Police, 2012). The program has expanded in scope from its initial eight blocks to 30 blocks. Calls for police service have risen in the area where the strategy has been implemented, something proponents say indicates increased community involvement, a greater willingness to report crime, and stronger perceptions of police legitimacy (Goode, 2012).Most interestingly, Cutone and Sarrouf provide a direct comparison between C3 Policing principles and those of traditional community policing. They note that community policing is a “philosophy and organizational strategy” that requires the inclusion of additional resources to put into operation. By comparison, C3 Policing is an operational strategy that uses existing resources to “work smarter” (Massachusetts State Police, 2012). C3 Policing and the results observed thus far show that the principles inherent to successful counterinsurgency strategy can be implemented in domestic municipal law enforcement efforts with success.


The similarities between criminal street gangs and insurgent fighters are recognized by both military and law enforcement. For law enforcement agencies, the need to create and maintain legitimacy in procedural justice is backed by a growing body of study and underpins the need to maintain crime control strategies that include the local community. The current population-centric approach to counterinsurgency warfare closely resembles contemporary community policing efforts and provides law enforcement with the opportunity to look to counterinsurgency operations for lessons learned. The adaptation and application of these lessons learned, combined with what law enforcement already knows about policing criminal street gangs, allows for the creation of general principles, or “Articles,” used for guiding operations against criminal street gangs. Intelligence must drive operations and operations must develop intelligence. These operations must be executed by highly agile teams whose decisionmaking capabilities have been pushed down to a command immediately above their operational level. This does not preclude the need for strategic oversight by higher command or for passing all intelligence up the chain for further analysis. However, tactical operations must be fused directly to intelligence gathering and analysis at the team level in order to yield the most robust results. When taken in summation, these articles provide for the creation of strategic planning and tactical operations that are capable of effectively disrupting, destabilizing, and dismantling criminal street gangs.



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About the Author(s)

John A. Bertetto is a sworn member of the Chicago Police Department. He is the author of the following articles: “Coun­tering Criminal Street Gangs: Lessons from the Counterinsurgent Battlespace,” “Designing Law Enforcement: Adap­tive Strategies for the Complex Envi­ronment,” and “Toward a Police Ethos: Defining Our Values as a Call to Action.” Officer Bertetto holds a Master of Science degree from Western Illinois University and a Master of Business Administration from St. Xavier University.



Sat, 11/24/2012 - 1:35pm

In reply to by DavidBecker


Rio has been working with the concept you described. The favela gangs and BOPE have been waging bloody battles for years, and the urban pacification work that the UPP has been doing sounds a lot like what you've described.

Michael Burgoyne has spent significant time down there and is very familiar with the work. His writings also appear here on SWJ. He's far more the expert on combating slum gangs in foreign countries than I, so I defer to that experience.

As far as here in the US urban centers, adapted COIN stands an excellent chance at success because we do not have to overcome the obstacles of culture and language. The kind of government we need to encourage and wait for in foreign countries is already developed here, and many of the local, informal support systems that are critical for program maintenance, such as faith- or education-based networks, are also in place. Where the change for law enforcement when utilizing these networks occurs is in transferring ownership after successful operations from an LE-sponsored effort to an LE-supported effort. Such a change in ownership reinforces the validity of those local networks and minimizes direct LE involvement. When budgetary concerns are included, these smaller LE footprints make financial sense as well. Low cost equals longevity.


Sat, 11/24/2012 - 10:28am

I have been tracking with interest the discussion of applying COIN to street gangs. We successfully applied a version of COIN to criminal gangs in Haiti, gangs that controlled territory and threatened the (very weak) Haitian state. They certainly met the standards of an incipient insurgency, supporting the return of former president Aristede against the present government. They had something of a Robin Hood image among the inhabitants for opposing (and kidnapping) the rich and running the abusive Haitian police out of the slums, and being a street gang member was a way to gain stature and earn cash for the family. There were few other alternatives for an ambitious slum dweller. Even the presence of UN forces in the country was not enough to dislodge them from their slums and stop their criminal activities.

In Prism Journal's "Gangs, Netwar and Community Counterinsurgency in Haiti" ( I discuss how starting late 2007 a USG supported program was able to convert the disaffected population to oppose the gangs and support police presence. Compared to the discussions here in SWJ, we emphasized a combined agency and program approach, rather than mainly a change in policing approach. This was an integrated program - it provided both small local projects around which the community organized itself, support for other organizations and private investment, and subsequently offered community policing-trained police once new community leadership asked for the return of police. The police, while crucial, were actually secondary to the development of community leaders and improved local organizations, just as mentioned in some of the comments here in SWJ.

Although the article doesn't cover it much, the ratio of newly assigned police was 1 to 10,000 for the 300,000 population of the Cite Soleil slum. They were supported by about 100 non-Creole speaking Brazilian peacekeepers, although the UN had no arrest or investigation authority. (They did have long guns, while the police did not.) That this low ratio was viable in the violent neighborhoods was really evidence of the support of the local population for ridding itself of gangs and the impact of a good community policing approach in collecting intel. Ratios for the rest of Haiti are about 10 per 1,000, which is still too few for real government presence or control in my opinion. Most developing countries with instability would rely on a ratio of 30 per 10,000 or more, in my experience. Police training and efficiency of course play a major role in these numbers.

Overall, I think that community COIN (when broadly speaking about a full court press of civilian and police agencies) can be very effective in developing countries, perhaps more even than in the urban zones in the US. Many slum areas in the developing world are far more violent and under gang control than in the US, but the answer is not so much a military intervention (often considered the only option) as a combined police/civilian intervention, ala Haiti.


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 6:57am

CBS3 News coverage LE using COIN principles to combat gangs.

C-3 policing transforming Springfield neighborhood

Video link:…

Posted: Nov 15, 2012 4:44 PM EST Updated: Nov 15, 2012 5:04 PM EST

By Cherise Leclerc - email SPRINGFIELD, MA (WSHM) -

It's a story CBS 3 has been following - the success of a state and Springfield police initiative in the city's North End. Law enforcement and residents say it's transforming their neighborhood and cutting crime by 68 percent. "I wish every hotspot community could use it, it has changed the lives of people here," said Jose Claudio, director of the New North Citizens Council. Claudio has lived in arguably the city's most dangerous neighborhood for more than 40 years.But he and many others aren't giving up on it.

"This is our city, this is our neighborhood, we need to all work together," he said. After a particularly violent week that claimed three lives in the fall of 2009, police and residents were finally fed up with the violence. "It was, it was a wake-up call for all of us," said state police Trooper Michael Cutone. Cutone took a lesson from his time in the Army Special Forces in Iraq and applied them to the streets in the North End. "Gang members and drug dealers operate very similar to paralyzing the community and instilling fear in the community," Cutone said. But it's more than just locking people up.

"It starts with every neighbor, it starts with every resident of Springfield," said Claudio. Claudio invites people he knows involved in the community to weekly meetings. Community and religious leaders and Springfield and state police meet there to talk about recent arrests, complaints and programs that are helping teens.

Issues brought up at Thursday's meeting led state police to a home on Washburn Street, where a group of kids has allegedly been terrorizing one family. Cutone says all too often this neighborhood swallows young kids up into a world of fear and abuse. And most of the time gangs are seen as the only way out. "It's very difficult for that young person to say 'no' and they get sucked into the gang, so we have to have a counter-message, and one of those counter-messages is Joseph Mendoza," Cutone said.

CBS 3 first introduced you to Pfc. Joseph Mendoza last week just days after he had graduated from Marine Corp boot camp. Since seeing his story as a North End kid staying out of trouble and succeeding, families have approached his mom on how they can do the same. "First young man from this community to go to the student trooper program, a year later from that joins the Marine Corp," said Cutone. But his story is not the only one of hope and survival coming out of this neighborhood. Some of the people that go to the weekly meetings have done time, learned the hard way and are now paying it forward in various ways. "It's very humbling and rewarding at the same time," Cutone said. Claudio says he knows that once this group continues to scrape away the crime, the people of the North End can turn a corner. "If everybody takes that pride and makes it happen, this city will be the comeback city," Claudio said. C-3 policing is catching the attention of law enforcement all over the nation.

Since seeing its benefits, police from California and North Carolina have visited Springfield to learn about it.

Copyright 2012 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 4:52pm

In reply to by Move Forward

I appreciate the length and detail of your response, and clearly this is a topic you have personal interest on, however I feel we are talking past each other a bit. The purpose of this article is not suggest an SF-only approach to prosecuting the war in Afghanistan; it is not intended to comment at all on the overall prosecution of that war. Rather, its purpose is to look at the real similarities between insurgent fighters and American criminal street gang members, examine what has worked in pop-centric COIN in general and SF's employment of COIN in particular, and adapt those lessons learned to policing street gangs. As previously stated, pop-centric COIN is similar to American community policing efforts in several regards, and the employment of COIN by SF is most similar. The use of social network analysis and targeting methods that rely on specific intelligence, in part developed from local assets and in part generated from site exploitation, again cross military/law enforcement boundaries. Military missions are increasingly the 'small wars' and peacekeeping/stability operations that, maligned though they may be, employ patrol and investigative techniques that law enforcement does very well. For these reasons, the line between our respective professions may be the thinnest it has ever been and affords us the opportunity to work with and learn from one another. On this overlap I think you and I are in agreement.

Move Forward

Sat, 11/17/2012 - 4:10pm

In reply to by JohnBertetto

Guess I’m saying modern insurgency brings problems that could benefit from police experiences. First, crime never ends and police cannot go into an area for a year or two and then go home thinking the problem is solved. They could not bomb a drug house or conduct a SWAT raid and believe no further problems will occur. The same applies to the COIN stability force except that they can transfer police and army-like training to the host nation with sufficient boots on the ground (BOG) and time to conduct the training while maintaining wide area security.

However, imagine trying to drive around your patrol car or walk the beat and your officers are being blown up every few days. It’s pretty hard to interact with, protect, and assist the population if you are getting continuously blasted on your beat. That would destroy your attitude toward the population just as many police become cynical dealing with so many bad guys. In Great Britain and large US cities you see greater emphasis on sensor cameras. At some point, perhaps a similar strategy would enhance military stability operations. Sure, military forces must patrol and interact but it seems borderline crazy to force dismounted patrolling through areas known to be heavily infested with IEDs.

My points are three-fold. First, adequate BOG must be present to stabilize, secure, and train the host nation forces or villagers. SOF alone is inadequate in a place as large as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Mali...even the relatively tiny sparsely populated Sinai rotates US infantry battalions and can’t begin to cover vast mountainous and desert areas even with its own and two multi-national battalions, and a US logistics battalion. Second, unlike police, BOG require adequate patrol protection with route clearance packages, crew-served weapons, and sensors to observe continuously the areas about to be patrolled. That may mean increased emphasis on air (towers, aerostats, UAS) and ground sensors to maintain continuous surveillance just like the cameras on big city downtown light poles or buildings.

Finally, since BOG can’t cover much area with platoon-size and larger forward operating bases and combat outposts (FOBs/COPs similar to your precincts) due to force constraints, dead space, and range between FOBs and platoon COPs, smaller squad and even fire team sized outposts could be dispersed controlling other remote sensors and weapons. That may mean parking M-ATV/JLTV in no man’s land with telescoping sensor towers, surrounded by HESCO when parked, so that as infantry patrol, they remain overwatched by sensors and crew-served weapons with a nearby QRF in the platoon COP. Ground sensors and unmanned ground vehicles could assist BOG interacting with and patrolling around the population while maintaining adequate security.

Authorities now say we don’t want to spend years conducting COIN. That is understandable and it sucks for the BOG. But stability operations and peacekeeping won’t go away or be accomplished from the air or sea. Some BOG must be on land for the long haul which can be host nation forces if trained sufficiently fast. Perhaps the alternative is to go in heavy ala the Powell and Shinseki thought processes, rather than believe a few SOF can cover all areas, all populations, all sanctuaries over massive land masses with millions of people, while training a few dozens at a time. In other missions such as in the Pacific, Army and Marine ground OPs along shore lines would be able to monitor sea choke points and serve as refueling bases for helicopters patrolling and resupplying the area.

If the current administration wishes to rebuild infrastructure at home and protect against massive weather events, fires, drug-running and illegal immigration across borders, and possible terrorist WMD attacks, the National Guard could be augmented with unique COIN equipment to make that happen. The Israelis use remote control towers with machine guns along the Gaza Strip. Recently we saw a manufacturer proposing CROWS-in-a-box with an elevated machine gun and sensors mounted on a container about 2 meter cube. At that size, three could fit on a PLS/LHS flat rack. What if the cube had generators that homes could plug into after a hurricane and to power street lights in combat? The generators could also power nearby host nation COPs or government offices or schools/hospitals. What if you could substitute stateside fire hoses instead of a machine gun and place them along wooded area fire breaks near housing areas during the summer, or dense neighborhoods in the expectation of Sandy-like and forest fires that firemen cannot access rapidly or safely?

During its time, Future Combat Systems proposed multiple ground sensors and unmanned ground vehicles. Because we desire to end wars sooner while still having sufficient force to secure, resupply, move, and patrol, National Guard dual-use technology could enhance stateside civil support or overseas stability operations. I recall seeing border patrol towers mounted on trucks with radars continuously sweeping the area. It was clear that either nobody was inside that truck or they were inside a shelter in the truck bed. Imagine existing IED-hardened vehicles with sensor towers as surveillance and relay nodes for other unmanned sensors and ground vehicles. National Guard units rotating to the border could assist the border patrol while training for wide area security.

A platoon COP could establish four METT-TC dependent squad or fire-team sized OPs with MRAP/M-ATV/JLTV surrounding the COP within a 2 kms radius. Each vehicle would control one or two CROWS-in-a-box extending out within a kilometer of the four fire team vehicles. Such a set up would allow vehicles and foot patrols to cover a 3 km radius around the central platoon COP. Or set up linearly, a platoon could cover 16-20 kms of a remote route with continuous surveillance provided by manned and unmanned surveillance and patrolling supported by a Platoon QRF with vehicles and CROWS Boxes serving as nodes and hardpoints. The following rough schematics illustrate the concept:

Security of town or area below.....................Security of route below

...........Fire Team OP
Sq OP-2k-PltCOP-2k-OP.(or).OP-2k-Box-2k-OP-2k-Box-2k-PLT COP-2k-Box-2k-OP-2k-Box-2k-OP
...........Fire Team OP

Trust me John B, I’ve never been to Afghanistan or Iraq so all my input is based on lots of professional reading and other Army and contractor experiences. However, clearly something did not work in Afghanistan between going in too light, diverting resources to Iraq, putting COPs underneath adjacent mountains without much sensor coverage, having allies with inadequate resources and different ROE, too few and inadequately secured civilian aid workers outside Kabul, failing to secure supply routes, and providing training to Afghans too slowly. Not sure how an SOF-only model would have solved that and there were plenty of examples of SOF getting overrun in small isolated units.

If 73,000 police are required for a peaceful Texas, at least that many Army/Marine GPF BOG were required from the get go in Afghanistan given the greater threats….unless you believe 150 Texas Rangers could secure Texas. MMCurtone is a plenty capable guy with lots of life skills but I doubt he would advocate using nothing but state police, even if they were all SOF or SWAT types, to cover all of tiny Massachusetts let alone an area the size of Texas.


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 11:04am

In reply to by Move Forward

Move Forward,

I'm not sure precisely what you're asking. Since you prefaced your remarks with the SOF qualifier I assume you are asking about police:population ratio in Afghanistan, to which I am not qualified to answer.

If you are asking about police:population ratio for here in the States, the answer to that depends upon the specific population. This entails questions of population density, local economic factors, and existing criminal elements that perpetuate criminal conduct (legacy gang activity). Additionally, the question must be asked "What are our officers doing?" This is a question few agencies like to ask, because many assume it's asked with the belief that officers are not working, i.e. lazy. It's not; it's an efficiency question. Are officers making the most of their available resources? Have we in administration structured our initiatives in a smarter manner?

This is not a "Do more with less" question, either. The use of social network analysis tools is a perfect example of the 'working smarter' initiatives of which I speak. The ability to map and track social networking - who is connected to who, who is connected to where, etc - allows us to identify the inter-connectivity of people, places, and events. Once these are mapped, critical nodes can be identified and acted upon, fracturing networks and separating criminal actors from problem locations.

It is the nature of bureaucracy to flow authority from the top down. This creates an institutional dependency on that direction of flow. When speaking of intelligence and policing, you have officers working the streets interacting with the gangsters on a daily basis - the 'tip of the law enforcement spear' if you will. These officers are in the best position to collect information and then process it locally. Instead, they believe that intelligence will flow down to them from on high or from a specialized intelligence unit within the bureaucracy. This is a failed opportunity and must be corrected. Officers should not be waiting for intelligence to come from on high, they should be sending intelligence up the chain alongside their planned operations in response. Getting officers out of the car and interacting with those on their beat with the intention of building assets and collecting information is step one. Step two is the inclusion of social network analysis tools and techniques that allow for coordinated use of this information. It is the job of police administration to recognize this need and make the adjustments to ensure it occurs: training of officers and support for intelligence capabilities at the field level.


Sat, 11/17/2012 - 6:44am

In reply to by Move Forward


Regarding the ratio of police to population. Great question. I do not have the answer to that question. I'm sure someone has conducted research on the ratio sweet spot. My thoughts only: You will need a force capable to respond to emergency 911 calls, and then other available officers to conduct your daily LE functions, traffic, narcotics, gang work, investigations etc. Each geographical area and population will present it's own unique set of problems or circumstances.

With COIN the local population becomes your greatest resource. No shortage of folks. This model would be used in targeted hot spots within high crime areas. Would not be sustainable for entire city.

Move Forward

Fri, 11/16/2012 - 8:32pm


Thanks for your long service. Because at least one of you has an SOF history in addition to being a police officer, I wonder if you could comment on how many authorities are required to cover a given area with a given population.

California seems to have typically low numbers of police relative to its population probably due to the higher cost of those officers due to high real estate prices. Los Angeles and San Francisco have around 27 officers per 10,000 but most other California cities have around 15 officers per 10K population or less. I note that Chicago and Baltimore both have around 45 officers per 10,000 and it is 32.5 in Boston.

City...Population..Police per 10,000
Oklahoma City.572,000..17.7

Washington,DC 601,500..65.6
El Paso.....624,500..17.3

San Francisco..818,500..27.5

Las Vegas....1,416,500..19
San Antonio..1,392,000..16.5
San Diego...1,313,500..14.2
San Jose....970,000....13

New York City..8,336,000..41.8
Los Angeles....3,843,000..25.7

Texas is about the same size as Afghanistan. Kabul has about 3 million people (about Chicago's size) and Kandahar about half a million with more around it. In theory to match Chicago's number of officers per 10,000 would require the same 12,500+ officers in Kabul alone, with another 25 million Afghans spread around the Texas-sized nation in much smaller cities and towns, plus rural areas. If we had only about that number of SOF in all of Afghanistan, how could they begin to cover and protect the populations spread out over 268,820 square would they stop the killings, IEDs, kidnappings, drug trade, etc.

There were 73,000 police officers in Texas in 2009. While acknowledging their continuing war on drugs and crime, I suspect you would admit that 73,000 would be insufficient if criminals were using IEDs, RPGs, and automatic weapons. I noted that in major urban areas, police officer numbers vary from a high of 65.6 per 10,000 citizens to a low of 9.2 in Irvine, CA with most in the 20s/30s/40s. However, what about smaller towns more typical of most of Afghanistan. In towns of 10,000, I doubt you would have a single officer. So since Afghanistan has many such towns that increases the rural police force even more.


Fri, 11/16/2012 - 6:04pm


There was no such thing as a Taliban until the Afghanistan’s civil war in the wake of Soviet troops’ withdrawal in 1989, after a decade-long occupation. This failed state was ideal fertile ground for the Taliban.

Michael Cutone


Fri, 11/16/2012 - 5:55pm



Fri, 11/16/2012 - 5:56pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Agreed, most of these gang members are local. It if for this reason that this type of approach is successful. These criminal actors are often known to the police, but always known to the community they prey on. Knock on any door near any incident of gang violence or habituation and you are more likely to be met with silence than "Hello." It's become common to have a victim's own last words be "I'm not telling you."

Community policing was supposed to address the chasm between the police and locals, but clearly it has not. The reasons for this are varied and include failures on both sides, to be sure. However, this kind of program, that stresses the pop-centric nature of COIN while still including aggressive targeting of criminal actors, stands the best chance of addressing many of these issues. It does this by re-integrating the 'community policing' actions with the actual police performing the enforcement (many agencies have separate officers and offices that perform 'community policing' activities while officers working patrol are not included) and by focusing intelligence efforts through these relationships.

To be effective for a law enforcement purpose, there must be some actionable return on the investment of community relations beyond the 'feel good,' softer, more accessible police that looks great at DARE functions and on the evening news. That return must also include the collection of information that can be processed into actionable intelligence. This effort takes 'community policing' the step further that it should have always taken - the development of community assets as sources of information.

Furthermore, when those officers engaging in patrol take the time to meet and speak with members of the community on a regular basis, if humanizes those community members and helps diffuse the "us v them" attitude that is often developed by officers.

In this regard, then, the fact that the criminal actors are locals is actually of great benefit.


Fri, 11/16/2012 - 4:44pm

MMCutone states 'Insurgents move into failed states to set up shop and paralyze the area through fear. Gang members and drug dealers move into failed neighborhoods...'

Yes there can be movement by insurgents and gangs into failed areas, usually our opponents have solid roots into the area. I cannot recall the exact phrase but in Afghanistan the Taliban fighters live within a few miles of home.

In the UK gangs and most dealers live in familiar locations, often where they were born, educated and have family & friends. Sometimes those locations are failed, not always. Those who are careful sleep in areas nearby, often where they are unknown to LE and for those who move upwards further away. By staying in those areas they are familiar with they have better security and in particular reduce their vulnerability to infiltration.


Fri, 11/16/2012 - 6:35pm

In reply to by davidbfpo


Gang members and drug dealers operator the same as insurgents. Insurgents move into failed states to set up shop and paralyze the area through fear. Gang members and drug dealers move into failed neighborhoods, paralyze the area through fear and thrive off the passive support of the community. When executing COIN properly the bottom line is to separate gangs from their cause and support. How is this done? By properly executing the eight principles of COIN.

The Mass., State Police have been executing COIN operations successfully in Springfield, Ma for the past three years. A high crime area with gangs and drugs, troopers along with Springfield PD won over this community by utilizing COIN principles. The response by the community has been overwhelming positive. Our success has been featured in the NY Times, Boston Globe and Nature Magazine.

See following links:

NY Times article:…

The issue for most police officers and departments(no fault of their own) they have NO training or real world experience with COIN operations, thus do not understand the crucial eight principles or HOW to implement them within a law enforcement capacity.

Spent 25 years with US Army Special Forces and 13 years with Mass., State Police. Had the opportunity to execute COIN operations in Iraq 2005-06 and we successfully included an Iraq Police forces within the COIN fight to liberate an insurgent controlled town.
See Army Magazine May 2008 Avghani model:…

My time with SF, law enforcement experience, and numerous deployments culminated when I returned home, it became clear to me gang members and drug dealers operate very similar to insurgents. COIN is an effective tool for LE to detect, disrupt, degrade, and dismantle gangs / drug dealers.

To successfully utilize COIN; Law enforcement must adhere to the following guide lines:
1) Proper selection of officers and proper COIN training. You will not arrest your way out of this gang / drug problem.
2) Proper leadership: Police brass must by into concept and support effort. You MUST have proper NCO leadership within your COIN/ LE team. This is crucial.
3) Joint effort by local PD and State law enforcement
5) Execution of campaign plan
6) Officers have to receive proper training, otherwise you will fail.
7) Target high crime areas within the city. You must start small and then grow outwards (we started on a seven streets which had three murders in one week during 2009)
8) NEVER forget the local citizens are you greatest resource! You will only succeed by, with and through them.


Michael. M. Cutone #2727
Trooper, Mass State Police
Special Projects Team


Thu, 11/15/2012 - 8:15am

In reply to by davidbfpo

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I agree, it's far too easy for officers to slip into the unfortunately common "us v them." One of the purposes of this manuscript and the approach contained therein is to specifically avoid that. That's why the piece features commentary on perceptions of legitimacy in procedural justice, stresses operations developed on specific intelligence, and why the number one principle is "First do No Harm," the third principle is "Diagnose the Problem," and the sixth principle "Find and Build Trust with Local Community Advisors" contains the direction to "win the trust of these people (local advisors). They, in turn, will go out into the community and win you the trust of those who trust them. This will affirm your legitimacy as the authority in the area, and intelligence will begin to make its way back to you. Remember that the first Article is “First, do no harm.”

This approach, which is essentially a 'community policing' initiative, stresses a community interaction that includes a gentle focus on the local population in a manner to shift that dynamic you mention while simultaneously maintaining directed operations against known criminal actors.


Thu, 11/15/2012 - 6:40am


Great to read your thoughts, although I have concerns over using a COIN approach to criminal gangs. It is easy in my opinion, as a former police officer, for the language and approach to slip into thinking the public are all the enemy.

After reading your article twice I don't think there is enough emphasis on understanding the situation faced before action. How well do we, largely as outsiders, understand local dynamics? Few if any LE now in the areas plagued by such gangs and LE rarely fully understands what is happening. As Mike F commented on the linked thread people buy drugs, there is a demand.

Secondly, the key to success is not making LE effective. It is changing the local dynamic, what will the local people accept and not accept? Will they see & avoid, buy & tolerate or hopefully see & tell. There is a very low rate of public reporting in gang/drug infested areas. LE and others must alter awareness - what you see is important, LE don't know - and change the motivation to report. Tip lines and modern social media may help. At the end this is a personal decision and relies on personal interaction - which you do emphasis in the wider context.

There is a SWC thread on this theme 'COIN comes home to assist policing':