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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

LAPD scraps Muslim mapping program

The plan, aiming at spotting potential enclaves where terrorists might develop, had been criticized by many. In its place, the department will try a 'community outreach' strategy.

The LAPD today abruptly scrapped its controversial plan to create a mapping program for the city's Muslim community, saying instead it would focus on a "community outreach" strategy more palatable to local civil rights activists.

The decision marks a major retreat for the department, which had said the mapping was necessary to better identify isolated Muslim communities where home-grown terrorism could breed.

But over the last week, the plans has been roundly criticized by Muslim groups and civil libertarians, and others have questioned whether it's possible to map the far-flung community.

Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Michael P. Downing said today that in the wake of the protests, officials would drop the mapping aspect of the plan but continue its attempt to make inroads into the Muslim community through outreach efforts.

In a document reviewed by The Times last week, the LAPD's counter-terrorism bureau proposed using U.S. Census data and other demographic information to pinpoint various Muslim communities and then reach out to them through social service agencies.

Originally, the LAPD planned to partner with USC's National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events to help build the mapping program. But after details of the effort were made public last week, USC officials said they were carefully studying whether to join the endeavor.

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. [Link]

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