America, Wake Up: Harden Your Soft Targets

January 7, 2016 Updated: January 7, 2016

The violent rampages taking place throughout America, with probability that this scourge will not end anytime soon, must motivate the nation to enhance vigilance and harden targets.

Law enforcement, military, and private security professionals refer to two types of targets for individuals with violent intentions.

These are commonly understood as hard and soft targets.

Security must be assessed and enhanced at both, as these are violent times throughout the world and here in America.

These are challenging times for police, private security, and citizens, but we must rise to the occasion to prevent all acts of violence with an unwavering dedication to collaboration.

Hard Targets

Hard targets have numerous layers of protection including physical, personnel, procedural, and cybersecurity.

These are normally more challenging to compromise because they are fortified with countermeasures of layers of protection, or defense in depth.

Hard targets include military bases, embassies, and numerous high-risk government facilities.

Although attacks on hard targets are more difficult, there have been breaches of security that have included the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in which over 200 people were killed in two East African cities. Another was the 2012 Benghazi attack with killings by militant extremists of a U.S. ambassador, U.S. foreign service officer, and two CIA contractors.

Security with hard targets must always be enhanced and vigilance maintained. The reality is that there are individuals making sophisticated and unprecedented plans to exploit vulnerabilities.

Soft Targets

Soft targets are much easier to compromise and are normally understood as places full of ordinary people, as opposed to a military base.

There are soft targets throughout society that include trains, subways, museums, hospitals, corporations, schools, colleges, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, houses of worship, transportation terminals, cultural sites, financial institutions, and sporting events.

Law enforcement and private security, along with the general public, must be vigilant together to prevent attacks. Any attack on a soft target can have catastrophic impact on civilians, police, and first responders, as well as on the economy and morale of the nation.

Acts of violence, including the accelerating incidents of terrorism throughout the world, must motivate us to not only enhance security of hard targets but harden soft targets as well.

Public, Private, Citizen Collaboration

As one walks the streets of our great cities, the vigilant presence of dedicated police officers protecting us must be appreciated.

In New York City, the NYPD’s protection of over 1 million revelers on New Year’s Eve deserves admiration.

The vigilance of the NYPD must be recognized, not only with its presence throughout the city with special events, but with uniformed officers walking the beat, and with highly trained and heavily armed units.

But the NYPD and any police department in America cannot do it alone. There must always be collaboration between the police, private security, and citizens.

There can be an attempted attack at any time, in any place, and by any means, and all of us must be aware of our surroundings and work together to protect one another.

Hardening Soft Targets

In my article titled “Mass Shootings: America’s Public Health Crisis,” published in the Dec. 10, 2015, edition of the Epoch Times, I argued that “a robust security program must be comprehensive, proactive, and continually updated. Security must never be piecemeal, negligent, or have its importance minimized.”

In the article, I presented basic security countermeasures to prevent violence, applicable to hardening soft targets, including security vulnerability assessments, background checks/investigations, training, warning signs, physical/personnel/procedural security, and cybersecurity.

Complementing these basic security principles is the importance of private security partnerships with law enforcement as exemplified by the NYPD SHIELD program. This is America’s public-private collaboration model dedicated to protecting New York City through information sharing.

Enhancing Private Security Professionals

Private security must honestly evaluate its services in light of unprecedented violence unleashed throughout America, to prevent future tragedies.

This review must include background and criminal records checks for all security personnel—both contractual and in-house—ongoing training initiatives exceeding legal requirements, and certifications that exceed the status quo.

Also, the implementation of critical response private security personnel demands serious consideration to harden high-profile soft targets. This is the new reality of private security—certified, licensed, and experienced armed security personnel—in highly visible tactical gear, serving as a deterrent and with experience enabling response to any crisis. These individuals should have either law enforcement or military experience with specialty units such as SWAT (special weapons and tactics teams) or emergency services.

There are ready, willing, and able professionals, ready to harden soft targets with critical response programs. America must not have its head in the sand, oblivious to the war drums of violence that demands vigilant countermeasures.

The realities of violence demand that we are proactive, rather than reactive, and do everything necessary to harden our soft targets. Private security must be on the cutting edge, implementing new countermeasures, protocols, initiatives, and seeing things with a new set of eyes.

Final Reflections

These are challenging times for police, private security, and citizens, but we must rise to the occasion to prevent all acts of violence with an unwavering dedication to collaboration.

America, to be forewarned is to be forearmed, and without haste; harden your soft targets.

Vincent J. Bove
Vincent J. Bove

Vincent J. Bove, CPP, is a national speaker and author on issues critical to America. Bove is a recipient of the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award for combating crime and violence and is a former confidant of the New York Yankees. His newest book is “Listen To Their Cries.” For more information, see

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.