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New report examines relationship between county characteristics and incidents of terrorism


New report examines relationship between county characteristics and incidents of terrorism

March 27, 2013

With a quarter of all terrorist attacks in the U.S. from 1990 to 2010 occurring in just 10 counties, researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) aim to understand that clustering by examining the relationship between counties' characteristics and incidents of terrorism.

In a new report, "County-level Correlates of Terrorism in the United States, 1990 to 2010," START Director Gary LaFree and START Researcher Bianca Bersani analyze the reduction in the rate of terrorist attacks in the United States. The vast majority of counties -- 92 percent -- did not experience any terrorist attacks between 1990 and 2010. Just more than half of the remaining counties experienced just one terrorist attack.

While there was a significant reduction in the frequency of terrorism in the first decade of the 21st century compared to the previous decade -- nearly 350 attacks in 1990s to just more than 230 from 2001-2010 -- the reduction was felt differentially across U.S. counties. Counties characterized by high levels of concentrated disadvantage and residential instability saw the greatest reduction in the rate of terrorism in the last decade. Counties characterized by high levels of foreign-born population and language diversity saw less reduction in the rate of terrorism between 2001 and 2010.

It should be noted that the data used in this report don't speak to the profiles of individuals who committed attacks but rather the profiles of counties that were the targets of attacks.

The new report builds on the authors' previous report, "Hot Spots of Terrorism and Other Crimes in the United States: 1970 to 2008," that brought to light substantial evidence that over the course of nearly four decades, nearly a third of all terrorist attacks occurred within just five U.S. counties. The data for this report come from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and the 1990 and 2000 U.S. Census.

This research was supported by the Resilient Systems Division of the Science and Technology Directorate of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

To download a copy of the full report, visit: http://www.start.umd.edu/start/publications/START_IUSSD_CountylevelCorrelatesofTerrorismintheUS_March2013.pdf.