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Geospatial and Temporal Patterns of Preparatory Conduct Among American Terrorists

NCJ Number
International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice Volume: 32 Issue: 1 Dated: Spring 2008 Pages: 23-41
Date Published
19 pages

This study examined the locations and time frames for terrorists' activities in the United States in preparation for and in relation to the location and timing of the planned attack.


The study found that approximately one-half of terrorists resided and prepared for their attacks within a 30-mile radius of the target site. International terrorists lived nearest their targets, and right-wing domestic terrorists tended to live in rural areas when preparing for attacks on urban targets. The terrorists sampled in this study generally committed funding crimes (robberies, burglaries, and thefts) at great distances from their residences and their ultimate attack target. Other preparatory crimes and planning, on the other hand, were more often conducted in close proximity to the target. Preliminary data on time frames for preparatory terrorist activities showed that international terrorist groups tended to plan for attacks over longer periods than either right-wing or single-issue domestic terrorist groups. Also, the latter groups, particularly environmental extremists, tended to commit fewer preparatory acts than international terrorists prior to the planned attack. The findings suggest that as the time for an attack draws nearer, the locations of preparatory events are moved nearer to the target location. It remains for future research to determine whether the location and timing of terrorists' preparatory activities can assist in predicting the target and timing for attacks. This study obtained relevant data from the American Terrorism Study (ATS), supplemented by data from additional cases selected by a panel of terrorism experts working on projects sponsored by the U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice. The ATS project produced a statistical database of approximately 80 variables on 650 persons indicted from approximately 65 terrorist groups. These individuals were indicted for just over 8,000 Federal counts related to terrorism investigations from 1980 through August 31, 2002. 5 figures, 6 tables, 18 notes, and 45 references

Date Published: January 1, 2008