Early detection of extremism? The local security professional on assessment of potential threats posed by youth

Authors Annemarie van de Weert, Quirine Eijkman
Published in Crime, Law and Social Change
Publication date 2019
Type Article


Frontline professionals such as social workers and civil servants play a crucial role in countering violent extremism.Because of their direct contac twith society,first liners are tasked with detecting individuals that may threaten national security and the democratic rule of law. Preliminary screening takes place during the pre-crime phase. However, without clear evidence or concrete indicators of unlawful action or physical violence, it is challenging to determine when someone poses a threat. There are no set patterns that can be used to identify cognitive radicalization processes that will result in violent extremism. Furthermore, prevention targets ideas and ideologies with no clear framework for assessing terrorism-risk. This article examines how civil servants responsible for public order, security and safety deal with their mandate to engage in early detection, and discusses the side effects that accompany this practice. Based on openinterviews with fifteen local security professionals in the Netherlands, we focus here on the risk assessments made by these professionals. To understand their performance, we used the following two research questions: First, what criteria do local security professionals use to determine whether or not someone forms a potential risk? Second, how do local security professionals substantiate their assessments of the radicalization processes that will develop into violent extremism? We conclude that such initial risk weightings rely strongly on ‘gut feelings’ or intuition. We conclude that this subjectivitymayleadto prejudiceand/oradministrativearbitrariness in relationtopreliminary risk assessment of particular youth.

On this publication contributed

Language English
Published in Crime, Law and Social Change
Key words extremism, detection
Page range 1-19

Annemarie van de Weert

Annemarie van de Weert | Researcher | Access to Justice

Annemarie van de Weert

  • Lecturer-researcher
  • Research group: Access to Justice