Omaha is the place, the right time for the new violence prevention coordinator at Homeland Security National Counter Terrorism Innovation, Technology and Education Center (NCITE)
Salina Greene was a costume designer in New York City, a research fellow in San Francisco, a PhD student in St. Louis and Oxford, England, and an equal opportunity investigator in Chicago.
For the past eight years, the Delaware native with a master’s degree in international relations has built a career with the Department of Homeland Security. During her tenure, she was asylum officer, politician, chief immigration officer and most recently regional prevention coordinator for the Office for Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention (OTVTP).
Their newest city is Omaha. Her most recent assignment is to identify hateful and extremist groups and community support in a region made up of Nebraska, Iowa, and Montana. This is part of a wider Homeland Security effort to engage and work with local communities to promote education, awareness and training programs to prevent individuals from engaging in violent acts.
It is also an acknowledgment of threats across the ideological spectrum. Violence prevention programs are often underfunded. Family, neighborhood, and school-level communities are the first line of defense as they spot signs of radicalization towards violence before it becomes a matter of law enforcement.
Anyone can be radicalized. I want to get to the root cause.
– Salina Greene, regional prevention coordinator of the DHS OTVTP
Greene is one of 10 regional coordinators deployed in the United States last year. Her arrival in September was on time for NCITE, which launched last July. With OTVTP acting director David Gersten on the NCITE board of directors and an NCITE research topic focused on prevention, NCITE director Gina Ligon has been looking for ways to work with, learn from, and support Greene.
One way was through the University of Nebraska as part of the Omaha Keystone MBA Program. Three MBA students created an initial roadmap for Greene, outlining the risk groups and support groups in the Omaha metropolitan area, which includes approximately 1 million people. It is a tailored, locally focused action plan that will help Greene create a comprehensive, sustainable preventive framework for the UN community.
Greene said the student project combined with the help of NCITE staff created “an invaluable gateway”.
“You cannot be successful in this industry without a concerted effort,” she said.
Greene said her placement is in response to a growing threat from domestic actors motivated to violence because of their beliefs about race, ethnicity, government and authority.
“While the underlying reasons may vary,” she said, “the threats from targeted violence and terrorism are increasingly overlapping, overlapping and interacting with one another.”
She said it was important not only to make law enforcement aware of this, but also to build the resilience of the community. Of all the places she has lived, Greene said, her experience in Omaha, even in a pandemic, was encouraging.
“I’ve never lived in a place that encouraged so much community engagement,” she said.
That will help after an unprecedented year. The COVID-19 pandemic, the economic and social effects of isolation and the tumultuous presidential election all add to the existing risk factors for targeted violence. What gives her hope is the potential of communities to sew together in need. A new year with a new vaccine offers that light at the end of the tunnel. Greene has clear eyes about the current climate and the challenge of preventing violence.
“Anyone can be radicalized,” she said. “I want to get to the root cause.”
Greene’s background will help. Her interest in theater and design reflects a creative background that is often helpful in tackling complex issues such as terrorism and targeted violence. Their travels and past experiences also provide unique windows into different communities.
With the presence of NCITE, Greene feels in the right place at the right time.