Unable to curb the availability of guns at home or extremist propaganda from overseas, the authorities may have to rely more on encouraging Americans to watch one another and report suspicions. Federal and local governments already have programs urging friends, families and neighbors to identify people targeted for recruitment.
There isn’t enough police in the world to watch every criminal or extremist. Communities owe it to themselves to watch over their members for their own sake, to warn them, counsel them and, if necessary, to alert the authorities, when it can make a difference. Let’s not confuse a watchful attitude, with Soviet style snitching on neighbours and family: you don’t end up with a bullet in the back of your head or in a gulag. The worst that can happen is a bit of hassle with the police – unless there is a case, of course. Police patrols day and night in fast cars, with lights flashing and sirens blaring, like in the USA or Italy, don’t seem to prevent high crime rates and violence. In Switzerland you hardly see police and, when you do, it’s rare to see them rushing with sirens blaring – the crime rate is pretty low. The Swiss are law-abiding, but neighbourhood watch is a way of life and, if somebody detects something suspicious, they will warn the police, and the criminals know it. It’s not paradise, but it’s not hell, either. And I – and a lot of other people – would rather live in a peaceful, ordered place, knowing that criminals are not protected by indifference. I also know Spain, where most houses have big iron bars in their windows – because honest people live behind bars, when criminals don’t.