U.S. Attorneys’ Community Outreach and Engagement: Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT EFFORTS BY U.S. ATTORNEYS CAN HELP PREVENT HOMEGROWN EXTREMISM, EXPERTS SAY
Survey results show U.S. Attorneys are advancing community relations, but need additional support
DURHAM, NC — U.S. Attorneys around the country are deeply engaged in building stronger relationships with Muslim American and other minority communities around the country, a study released today by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University and RTI International shows. David Schanzer, co-author of the study and professor at the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy, noted that building these relationships can contribute to preventing incidents of violent extremism inside the United States:
Building trust between federal government officials and communities vulnerable to recruitment by violent extremist organizations can have many positive benefits. These communities can gain protection against recruitment efforts, seek redress for hate crimes and discrimination, and work with government to build resiliency against violent ideologies.
The study – United States Attorneys’ Community Outreach and Engagement Efforts to Counter Violent Extremism – reports results of a nationwide survey of United States Attorneys about their efforts to engage with communities that may be targeted for recruitment by violent extremist groups like ISIS, the Klu Klux Klan, or sovereign citizens. In a 2011 national strategy for preventing homegrown violent extremism, President Obama assigned U.S. Attorneys as “leads in the field” for the federal efforts to partner with communities.
The key findings from the survey are:
- 99% of U.S. Attorneys conduct community outreach and they spend an average of 15 hours per week on these activities
- 71% of U.S. Attorneys conduct outreach to address extremism inspired by al Qaeda and/or ISIS; 47% of U.S. Attorneys address racist extremism; 46% address antigovernment extremism; and 40% address environmental extremism.
- The issues most frequently discussed in outreach and engagement activities are crime prevention and public safety (88% of U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAOs)), functions of U.S. Attorneys (84% of USAOs), and hate crimes (83% of USAOs).
- S. Attorneys reported that community feelings about FBI tactics, immigration, and counterterrorism policy detracted from their efforts to build relationships with community groups. Whereas positive community attitudes towards the U.S. government and the Department of Justice contributed to relationship-building efforts.
The survey also demonstrated that U.S. Attorneys are provided little to no additional funding for their community engagement efforts and staff and assistant prosecutors are supporting community-relations efforts on their own time. 94% of the USAOs received no funding for community work, 73% of the USAOs have no full-time staff support for community outreach and 88% assign these duties to staff without reducing their other responsibilities. Less than half the USAOs report receiving funding for training.
Co-author Joe Eyerman, Director of the RTI Center for Security, Defense and Safety, commented that the lack of budget and staff support made these efforts “unsustainable.” Eyerman said, “The U.S. Attorneys have done what they could to implement the White House strategy, but without dedicated staff and funding, these efforts will almost certainly falter.”