This Brosnan Risk Consultants (BRC) Strategic Intelligence Briefing covers the period from June 15th to June 28th, 2021 and discusses issues related to recent economic, political, socio-cultural, and/or environmental events that may have an effect on property, travel, commercial, logistical, medical, and retail security throughout the United States or other global markets.

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How are Things Trending in NYC?

security-services-in-NYC

In NYC and elsewhere in the United States, political realities are overtaking the situation on the ground. The wherewithal of the police and their willingness to step out to quell problems is diminishing to the point where we are likely at a tipping point.

One senior official explained that in some way he wishes he did not decide to retire. He said the job is about to get easier as the expectations will be zero, as politicians are undercutting the police, taking away their mandate and funding, and creating an environment where there is no desire or need to stop crime because it would have no impact in making the situation safer.

People are no longer afraid or respectful of the police. Multiple officers from different areas of the city and areas of specialization have said the same thing, “if someone comes up to me in my car and tells me to go (blank) myself, what can I do? If I arrest him, he is out in minutes. It is easier to walk away and not create a situation in which crowds gather, start filming and require me to either have to respond to protect myself or flee.”

Washington Square Park – What Actually Happened?: The situation in Washington Square Park epitomizes the situation city wide. Officers and leadership are of one voice – “it is beyond a mess.” It seems that the politicians have finally broke the camel’s (NYPD’s) back. A couple of weeks back, the NYPD was called on by politicians and neighbors living in and around Washington Square Park to put an end to the crime, drugs, prostitution, and overall mayhem. The normal troublemakers in the park were supplemented by the core anarchists in the city when a curfew was put in place. The police went in and made arrests and quieted things down. Well, unsurprisingly, the politicians on the city council and the neighbors were concerned with the police tactics. They pushed back on the police and said that while they wanted things quiet, they did not want the police to take action. As a result, the police pulled out and removed the curfew. The place is a mess again, with crime and crazies taking over the park leading to community and business owners complaining about the lack of safety.

No One Willing to put Themselves Out There: In talking to the NYPD’s senior leadership, with the exception of some seniors, they are not willing to put themselves out there anymore. Not only do they not have the support of the mayor or the government, but if they do make an arrest, the person is immediately let go due to bail reform. Police Officers also have to worry about being sued since qualified immunity is gone. Leadership are reluctant to put their officers in harm's way in this current environment unless it is absolutely necessary.

The Situation on the Ground: The situation on the ground was described as the start of a much worse situation taking hold in the near to midterm. NYC was compared to the Serengeti, with the lions outnumbering the wildebeests at present. However, in the not-too-distant future, when people come back along with tourists, there will be more wildebeests for the lions to feed off. The police department in NYC, along with others around the country, are running scared of their mayors and politicians, who are not supporting them. There have been some recent efforts, albeit uncoordinated, by police across the U.S. to try and take back the streets (Minneapolis and George Floyd Square, Portland, Seattle and NYC), but none appear to be gaining any traction nor are they appreciated.

Funding: There are some indications that the anarchists and hard-core protestors are actually getting funded by NYC city councilors. This is still being explored, but a lot of these groups, such as Cop Watch, get government funding pushed by the council.

 

Large Number of Illegal Votes Found During Audit of Maricopa County

The latest update nationwide is that the Maricopa County audit has found approximately 254,000 votes that were illegal and should have been tossed out.

Maricopa County has been engaged in a forensic audit of the 2020 Presidential election for some time. The results of this are pending, however according to a senior political leader, the announcement will indicate that there were a significant number of votes that should not have been counted, to include those from dead people and other reasons for having them rejected.

Those involved realize that it is unlikely, and constitutionally not possible, for the election to be overturned. However, pending the release of these results, we are likely to hear calls for similar audits taking place in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and other locations. It could also further embolden those from the Far-Right who since 06 January have been keeping a low profile, as well as former president Trump.

 

Readout from Putin-Biden Meeting

Based upon observations from U.S. national security leaders, the results from the recent meeting between President Biden and Putin were quite positive, despite press readouts to the contrary. It was noted that when it comes to meeting such as these the context is as important as the results, and the fact that there were not more substantive results was actually a positive thing overall. While the majority of the focus of Biden’s recent trip overseas was squarely placed on the meeting with Putin, the other meetings with European allies and partners were as important, if not more so.

The purpose of the efforts with the European Union and NATO were twofold: first, to reestablish and recommit the U.S. to these strategic international partnerships and groups, attempting to establish a foundation upon which to continue to establish trust and sweep aside the negative impact of President Trump’s confrontational tact in dealing with Europe over his term. While they are not willing to concede that things are back to where they need to be, there was an assessment that things are progressing in a positive direction as a result of these meetings and efforts.

The fact that the meetings with the EU and NATO took place first and ended with positive results, was meant to send a message to the Russian President that he could not leverage this aspect of U.S. foreign policy against the U.S. This in turn, with ancillary efforts by the U.S. government that began at the outset of Biden’s term to address the various threats from Russia head-on, had a positive impact of putting the Russians on notice.

Putin, who likes to flex his muscles by either showing up late or not showing up at all to meetings, was kept at bay during the meetings with President Biden. The efforts taken previously to more directly deal with Russia and its cyber/other attacks against the U.S. over the past 4-6 years had a positive impact.

The overall goal was not to have specific takeaways or agreements from the meeting, but to send a message that while the U.S. President was willing to meet with Putin, it was not on equal terms. It also addressed agonizing worries and concerns from U.S. European allies, who, while not supportive of Putin, hoped the U.S. president would meet him to deal with the situation and placate him to some degree.

For Putin’s part, he got what he wanted. He met with the U.S. President and could characterize that meeting to his allies and those he is looking to apply leverage over that he and Biden were peers.

 

“Well at least it isn’t Portland…” – How is Seattle Doing These Days?

The situation in Seattle has continued to present security challenges stemming from the political climate, the lingering effects of the killing of George Floyd, rampant homelessness, ever increasing amounts of crime and shootings, and an unwillingness to allow the police to maintain safety and security for the community.

Overview of the Situation: Seattle is home to a large number of street campers, with open air drug markets located throughout the city. These individuals are very aware of their ability to do just about anything they want, knowing that the police will be unable to stop them for long.

  • This has had a direct impact on businesses and retailers in the city. The homeless and street criminals, to include gangs, are aware that they can take anything they want from stores without fear of retribution by the police or security.
  • At many retail locations across the city, management has advised staff not to confront individuals shoplifting if they are believed to have a weapon or are being hostile/confrontational. This is known to the criminals, who frequently push and bully store staff and hired security, able to steal anything they want.
  • As a result, police have enacted a “retail theft program
    1. This program is a joint effort between police and retailers across the city.
    2. This allows the agents/representatives (usually security guards) of a retailer to stop a “cooperative shoplifter.” This is defined as someone who is not using force or the threat of force.
    3. Agents can write reports related to an incident, send them to the police, which can then be used later by the city/county prosecutor’s office to file/follow up on charges against a criminal.
    4. Police have noted that more often than not, criminals are aware of the strictures of this and will use force so as not to be confronted by security at a retail establishment.


Overall Environment: The political environment has driven the ongoing rise in crime, violence, and lawlessness.

  • Until recently, the Keene County Department of Corrections would not allow anyone convicted of a misdemeanor into their prisons.
  • It was noted that the City Attorney’s office handles misdemeanors, while the County Attorney’s office handles felonies (which are defined for shoplifting as involving more than $1000 worth of goods, up from $300 not long ago).
  • Most of the shoplifting arrests and infractions go to the City Attorney, who does not pursue cases as they characterize such crime as “crimes of economic repression,” stating publicly that they believe the individuals had no alternative or option other than to steal given the oppressive nature of our economic system.
  • The City Council attempted to pass a law that any petty criminal infraction would not be pursued because it was committed out of “economic necessity.” While this proposal gained limited traction, it is expected to be revisited during the next council session.
  • The Mayor and the City Council, while initially paying lip service and supporting the police at the outset of their terms, later pushed forward efforts to defund the police by 50%. The key turning point was the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests.
  • Indicative of the environment, the City Council and Mayor viewed the term “gangs” by the police as offensive. As such, the police were forced to rename their anti-gang unit the “Gun Violence Reduction Unit.”

Characterization of Seattle: Police leaders have quietly confided that while Seattle is a beautiful city along the coast, it is now a “miserable place to live and be at” given the hostile political climate.
  • Police officers have been leaving the force in droves. Over the past year, the Seattle police department has lost more than 90 officers, while hiring only 24 new individuals.
  • While the situation and the protests have died down over the past months, they are expected to heat up again now that we are into the summer.
  • Violence and shootings are at an all-time high, with 6 shootings a day. In the last 10 days there have been 2-3 homicides.

 

What Can Be Done? Police have confided that they have no real response or options. They are attempting to have a visible public presence to deter crime but realize that this has limited effectiveness given the political environment. People do not care and are willing to confront police knowing they will do nothing in response.

The main driver for these problems is the fact that the political leadership will not support police efforts to take action in response to crimes. Police actively attempt to avoid confrontations, especially potential situations involving minorities that could lead to violence.

  • The communities recognize the problems and have created groups called “Community Passageways” that meet regularly and allow disparate elements of society to attempt to navigate and solve problems.
  • These organizations have met with limited effectiveness as some have been compromised by gangs.
  • In one instance recently, a group met and a known gangbanger was present. A rival gang went to the meeting that included 40 other local leaders. At the meeting, the rival gang executed the other gang member as revenge for a previous attack.

The homeless issue continues to be one of the major drivers of problems across Seattle. Home Encampments are located across the city, underneath highways, in parks and in front of stores.

  • The city has set up “Navigation Teams.” These are multi-disciplinary groups consisting of government agencies focused on dealing with the problem.
  • However, efforts to move or relocate homeless are met with strong political opposition. The general mantra is, “the police are looking to displace already displaced people…”

Could it Get Worse? Police are unsure of how it could get worse than it already is, although they note that the situation in Seattle is better than it is in Portland.

  • Incidents such as the George Floyd shooting and other officer-involved-shootings involving Blacks, regardless of where they happen, but especially if in Seattle, are seen as having a direct impact on the situation on the street.
  • The follow-on trial of the other three officers involved in the George Floyd killing is being viewed by police as a potential trigger event.
  • The police response to protests after the Floyd killing involved active measures such as CS gas and flash bang grenades. The political response was immediate, and as a result, police now are not allowed to use any such tools.
  • Effectively, should violence break out again on the streets, police are being directed to stand their ground and attempt to control the situation without such tools.

Deterrence: While the overall situation is bleak in Seattle, police have noted that the presence of uniformed guards, whether armed or not, has acted as a deterrence. While they are not a deterrence to aggressive or hostile individuals, they have been successful in fending off less aggressive/bold individuals. The police view this as a realistic and workable option in their struggle to address the criminal activity across the city.

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John Franchi

Written by John Franchi

John Franchi is a retired Senior Intelligence Officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, with service both internationally and in Washington DC. John is a recognized expert in geopolitical and transnational issues, counter-terrorism, counterintelligence and cyber issues.

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