With homegrown terrorism on the rise, the modern democracies face increasing security challenges
Text and photos by Andro Anic
The world is flooded with cameras. Stations, parks, buildings, roads – the city wakes and goes to sleep recording every step we take. Berlin’s transport system (BVG), which is one of the biggest in Europe, takes its security very seriously. According to Gary Menzel, the police director of the city, the complexity of the issue has never been greater. “The stations are monitored all the time, which can certainly contribute to some subjective impressions from the citizens, but we are never safe enough”, he says.
Menzel, who went to Kabul to train security forces there, controls the monitoring system for BVG. He explains: more than 45 out of 173 Berlin subway stations are equipped with technology for zooming, turning, and recording HD videos; and each station has around 30 cameras. “We believe it’s a great tool for recognizing possible threats and stepping toward subjective security,” he says, “It’s important how people feel, so we monitor everything and predict the situation accordingly”. Menzel thinks that more video sources can increase safety. “It is better to have more resources because you can never know what might happen,” he adds.
The challenge with security is the politicization of the issue. According to Sebastian Hartmann, Member of the Home Affairs Select Committee of German Parliament, there is a big gap between extremism and liberalization, so there must be practical and political sides when maintaining the security standards. “Politically, there are always people who will go with the extremists, and those are usually right-option ones,” he says, “They do not realize this process has to start slowly and lead to open debates. Political parties have to react on that and remain active all the time.”
Some of the security issues are closely linked to the media and journalistic coverage of controversial events and numbers. “Role of the media was always important, and it gets even bigger when it comes to ‘security crises’,” Hartmann says. For him, the main concern is the misinformation. “I advise media to be very careful with the numbers,” he adds. Although technology enabled people to monitor and verify information more precisely, there are still challenges in relation to facts and fake data.
Media can also play a crucial role in destabilizing communities and spreading negative stereotypes about refugees and migrants by creating an image of them as potential terrorists. According to Menzel, domestic terrorism is on the rise despite a common belief that people with foreign passports are the biggest threat to national security.
“Nowadays, you cannot identify someone’s acts and the history of their crime attempts just by searching the country of origin,” the expert explains, “Homegrown terrorism is increasing, and there are four factors that enable it. The potential terrorists are young, manly, have a specific social status and technology to do it. It’s all a matter of good organization.”
Both Hartmann and Menzel agree: there is no way of predicting the end of the security crises. With open discussions, education, and local governments’ participation, better security standards can be reached earlier than expected.