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Violent Extremism Prevention

Preventing violent extremism is a priority that strikes at the core of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts. In April 2013, the people of Boston were victims of dual bombings by two local, domestic terrorists. The ways in which first responders, law enforcement, and local, state, and federal officials immediately reacted to prevent more deaths and catch the individuals responsible is testament to the preparation and readiness of the District's agencies and institutions.

In March 2014, the White House National Security Council requested assistance from a group of non-governmental, governmental, and academic stakeholders in greater Boston - as well as two other regions - with piloting a framework to "counter violent extremism." The group developed a locally driven framework that defines how they view what it means to "counter violent extremism."  Representatives from the U.S. Attorney's Office were some of the many representatives who contributed to the local approach, which is not meant to be a federal "top-down" effort.  Instead, it is meant to serve as a foundation to assist various communities - locally, nationally and internationally - in building resilience and capacity to prevent individuals, including young people, from being inspired and/or recruited by violent extremists.  The framework provides some guidance on how numerous stakeholders can engage in this type of violence prevention work.

Challenges

Because there are many bases for violent extremist ideology, such as economics, religion, or politics, the collaborative in Greater Boston opted not to focus on any one form of violent extremism or to target any one community. Instead, the collaborative explored seven challenges present in preventing violent extremism in general.

  1. Some young people may be at greater risk of feeling isolated and alienated, making them more vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremists.
  2. Providing services to individuals before mobilization toward violent extremism is challenging when there is a lack of understanding regarding violent extremism and limited intervention programs.
  3. Social media and other media platforms are being used to recruit individuals to join extremist groups and to encourage individuals to engage in violence.
  4. U.S. policy and events around the globe can frustrate, anger and, at times, influence some to think that there is no effective alternative other than to express grievances or solidarity through the use of violence.
  5. Distrust between government and non-government hinders collaborative and effective decision-making and problem solving.
  6. Lack of knowledge in mainstream society regarding religions, cultures and thought systems, which are unfamiliar or are maligned in the media, contributes to poor perceptions that fuel and mutually reinforce fear and estrangement.
  7. Individuals convicted of hate crimes and terrorism offenses require specialized support and services before and after release from prison.

To learn more about the Framework, see the video, fact sheet and/or strategic plan below: 

Updated January 9, 2020

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