Los Angeles police mapping Muslim areas
FW: ARTICLE: Los Angeles police mapping Muslim areas
From: Geography Department Listserv on behalf of Lisa Bhungalia
From the Los Angeles Times
LAPD to build data on Muslim areas
Anti-terrorism unit wants to identify sites 'at risk' for extremism.
By Richard Winton, Jean-Paul Renaud and Paul Pringle
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
November 9, 2007
An extensive mapping program launched by the LAPD's anti-terrorism
bureau to identify Muslim enclaves across the city sparked outrage
Thursday from some Islamic groups and civil libertarians, who
denounced the effort as an exercise in racial and religious profiling.
Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing, who
heads the bureau, defended the undertaking as a way to help Muslim
communities avoid the influence of those who would radicalize Islamic
residents and advocate "violent, ideologically-based extremism."
"We are seeking to identify at-risk communities," Downing said in an
interview Thursday evening. "We are looking for communities and
enclaves based on risk factors that are likely to become isolated. . .
. We want to know where the Pakistanis, Iranians and Chechens are so
we can reach out to those communities."
Downing added that the Muslim Public Affairs Council has embraced the
vaguely defined program "in concept." The group's executive director,
Salam Al-Marayati, said Thursday that it wanted to know more about the
plan and had a meeting set with the LAPD next week.
"We will work with the LAPD and give them input, while at the same
time making sure that people's civil liberties are protected," said
Al-Marayati, who commended Downing for being "very forthright in his
engagement with the Muslim community."
Others condemned the project, however.
"We certainly reject this idea completely," said Shakeel Syed,
executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern
California. "This stems basically from this presumption that there is
homogenized Muslim terrorism that exists among us."
Syed said he is a member of Police Chief William J. Bratton's forum of
religious advisors, but had not been told of the community mapping
program. "This came as a jolt to me," Syed said.
Hussam Ayloush, who leads the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on
American-Islamic Relations, said the mapping "basically turns the LAPD
officers into religious political analysts, while their role is to
fight crime and enforce the laws."
During Oct. 30 testimony before Congress, Downing described the
program broadly as an attempt to "mitigate radicalization." At that
time, he said law enforcement agencies nationwide faced "a vicious,
amorphous and unfamiliar adversary on our land."
Downing and other law enforcement officials said police agencies
around the world are dealing with radical Muslim groups that are
isolated from the larger community, making potential breeding groups
for terrorism. He cited terror cells in Europe as well as the case of
some Muslim extremists in New Jersey arrested in May for allegedly
planning to bomb Ft. Dix.
"We want to map the locations of these closed, vulnerable communities,
and in partnership with these communities . . . help [weave] these
enclaves into the fabric of the larger society," he said in his
"To do this, we need to go into the community and get to know peoples'
names," he said. "We need to walk into homes, neighborhoods, mosques
To assemble the mapping data, Downing said in an interview Thursday,
the LAPD intends to enlist USC's Center for Risk and Economic Analysis
of Terrorism Events, which was founded four years ago with $12 million
in federal funds.
In 2003, university officials said the center would focus on threats
to power plants, telecommunications and transportation systems.
It recently was tapped to strengthen security at Los Angeles
Downing said the effort would not involve spying on neighborhoods. He
said it would identify groups, not individuals.
"This has nothing to do with intelligence," he said, comparing it to
But in his congressional testimony, Downing said the LAPD hoped to
identify communities that "may be susceptible to violent,
ideologically-based extremism and then use a full-spectrum approach
guided by an intelligence-led strategy."
Downing told lawmakers the program would "take a deeper look at the
history, demographics, language, culture, ethnic breakdown,
socioeconomic status and social interactions."
He added that the project was in its very early stages, and that its
cost and full scope have not been determined.
"Physically the work has not begun," Downing said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and some community groups sent a
letter Thursday to Downing expressing "grave concerns" about the
program and asking for a meeting.
"The mapping of Muslim communities . . . seems premised on the faulty
notion that Muslims are more likely to commit violent acts than people
of other faiths," the letter states.
ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston compared the program to the Red
Scare of the 1950s and said: "This is nothing short of racial
But Al-Marayati said he believed that Downing was working in good faith.
"He is well-known in the Muslim community," he said. "He's been in a
number of mosques and been very forthright in his engagement with the
Times staff writers Francisco Vara-Orta, Andrew Blankstein and Stuart
Silverstein contributed to this report.