THE BLOG
07/02/2014 12:16 pm ET | Updated Sep 01, 2014

Countering a Culture of Fear

The terrorist attacks perpetrated in Boston, London, Mumbai, Nairobi and New York, and the kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria, have all been amplified by communication.

Real-time images of planes being flown into buildings; people running for their lives rather than a finishing line; parents weeping for their missing children: today's culture of 24-hour, Internet-based communications, intensifies the criminal acts themselves, adding another layer of pain and fear.

Beyond viewing these events as they unfold on TV and news websites; they can also be experienced by each and every one of us via social media. My friends are able to bring me closer to the event by integrating their emotion -- be it sorrow, anger or fear -- through the images that they circulate.

I see the impact of fear on my own parents who live in a small town in Italy, but who feel the threat of terrorism inside their very home. Their fear is as real as if they lived in one of the cities that has already suffered a terrorist attack.

The fear of crime is becoming almost as pervasive and harmful as crime itself.

Take the horrific example of the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 where pressure cookers were used as explosive devices. An innocuous kitchen appliance became a symbol of terror. Even as a police officer, I now look at appliances and other objects in my home differently... wondering which of them could be most easily converted into a bomb or lethal weapon for use by terrorists.

I now add these thoughts to my caution in boarding planes and trains. I am always looking around, making sure that nothing "suspicious" is underway. I have my own standards for what constitutes unusual behavior. My standards cannot be based on racial or ethnic prejudice because I interact with so many people of different races and ethnic backgrounds who work side-by-side with me to make the world a safer place. My police training enables me to pick up on risks and threats, but the general public also need to be on the lookout and to know how to report anything that makes them feel unsafe.

As an Italian, I can't be fearful of groups of people simply because they look different from me. I grew up aware of the various Mafia groups in Italy, and their members looked just like the rest of us... They were Italians! I grew up understanding that the Sicilian Mafia took pride in making people fearful to bear witness against them. Those who did dare stand up for justice paid the ultimate price, as shown by the assassination of Italian magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, as well as their bodyguards. These personal protection officers, whose names remain virtually unknown to the majority of people, were police officers, colleagues, who devoted their daily lives to ensuring the safety of fellow citizens.

I am writing this today because I do not believe that enough is being done to allay the fear felt by victims of terrorism and other forms of violence, the families and loved ones of victims; or indeed the public at large. Awareness is key. Personally, the fear I feel is one of awareness of the threats and the many forms they can take. I also know that these threats can be defeated both by those of us who are professionals and those of us who are ordinary citizens -- if we simply become more aware of how we can better prevent all forms of crime.

INTERPOL is famous the world over for hunting down dangerous fugitives and for classic action by police worldwide investigating international crime. Moviegoers in China might associate it with Jackie Chan; James Bond enthusiasts might confuse Daniel Craig with an INTERPOL agent; while Bollywood lovers might remember the elusive international criminal character "Don" played by Shah Rukh Khan whom police in 11 countries and INTERPOL could never catch.

My colleagues and I in the INTERPOL Communications Office decided to adopt an innovative approach to remove the fear felt by so many of us. An approach not ordinarily associated with INTERPOL. An approach called "Turn Back Crime."

After discussing it with them, I was confident that we could move from this Hollywood/Bollywood stylized image, far removed from reality, into something that people could relate to and make a part of their lives. INTERPOL could move from fiction into their real lives.

At its core, Turn Back Crime is about breaking down barriers between the police and the public; creating a dialogue to build a relationship of trust; an inclusive approach to help people feel safe, to help reduce fear but not just of terrorism; fear of any form of crime.

To succeed, it is crucial for people to have a better understanding of current crime issues and how they can better protect themselves and their families.

For example, human trafficking may seem a distant phenomenon, but the facts prove it is present in virtually every country. Buying fake items such as illicit medicines and counterfeit goods may save money, but it feeds organized crime and terrorism.

INTERPOL's Turn Back Crime campaign seeks to enlist the support of individuals and companies not ordinarily associated with fighting crime to prove that each of us has an important role to play in making the world a safer place and in contributing to the development of a worldwide culture of legality.

Footballer Lionel Messi expressed his support shortly before the start of the World Cup. As he said, even if we are all supporting different football teams, we can still join together to fight crime. Actor Jackie Chan is also on board the campaign (who better than the actor himself to dispel the myth?), as are Formula 1 racing drivers Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen. Similarly, Shah Rukh Khan, one of India's most popular actors, wants people to know how important it is for them to turn back crime. The campaign has also been presented to Pope Francis who has repeatedly spoken out against organized crime. Just recently, His Holiness visited Calabria -- the southern Italian base of the local Mafia group 'Ndrangheta' -- where he explicitly excommunicated members of Mafia-type criminal organizations.

In reaching out across borders and cultures, and in speaking about fighting crime using language that anyone can understand, I hope to replace fear with knowledge. I also hope that people, young and old, will embrace it and find new and innovative ways to communicate how, together, we can Turn Back Crime.

I have seen communications used to instill fear. I now want to use the same communications tools to create feelings of empowerment, security and hope.

I believe that it's time to turn the tables and to turn back crime.

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