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U.S. perpetrators tend to attack close to home


U.S. perpetrators tend to attack close to home

November 10, 2017Jessica Stark Rivinius

In recent years, more than half of terrorism incidents have occurred within 30 miles of the perpetrator’s city of residence, indicating an increasing prevalence for terrorists in the United States to live closer to the target than in years past, according to a new START report based on data from the American Terrorism Study.

This new research brief represents an overview of basic spatial patterns across a sample of terrorism incidents in the United States. While research concerning characteristics of incidents has received some study, the geospatial patterns of these incidents remains largely unexamined. Logically, different ideological categories of terrorism may lend themselves to different spatial patterns and preferences for target distance. In addition, the distance required to perpetrate an incident may affect the success rate of an attack. Terrorists who must travel further to engage in preparatory activity such as surveillance or transporting weapons may stand an increased chance of failure due to human intervention.

Previous research from the American Terrorism Study (ATS) has examined these ideas and generally suggests terrorists favor targets closer to their place of residence; this research brief builds upon that previous work. The findings suggest that in recent years, terrorists have lived closer to the intended target. This is primarily related to the increase in ISIS-affiliated incidents.

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Research Area: 
Terrorism and Society