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Conceptualizing the Hijacking Threat to Civil Aviation

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Review Volume: 32 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 209-232
John M. Miller
Date Published
September 2007
24 pages
This article examines a new typology of hijackings that deviates from past work by using well-established statistical clustering techniques.
The examination of the four clusters that emerged in the analysis should prove useful to law enforcement when faced with hijacking incidents. The research established four clusters of hijacking incidents, based on the characteristics of the incidents: the presence of arms, the nature of the hijackers’ affiliation with formal organizations, the number of perpetrators, the nature of the flight (domestic or international), and the country of flight origination. The four groups differed significantly in terms of the types of strategies effective in resolving the attack and the likelihood of the success of those efforts. Cluster 1, the unprepared hijackers, was distinguished by the absence of weapons and single perpetrators; these incidents are sometimes resolved before law enforcement arrived. Cluster 2 was distinguished by multiple armed perpetrators connected to terrorist organizations; law enforcement objectives must concern minimizing loss, especially to civilians as these incidents potentially involve large amounts of ordnance, very little bluffing, and a better chance that the perpetrator will succeed. Due to this cluster’s overt power strategies during negotiation, the situation may require law enforcement to adapt different negotiation strategies. Cluster 3 was distinguished by multiple armed perpetrators but without the connections to terrorist groups; enforcement efforts were more likely to prevail with Cluster 3 incidents than with Cluster 2. Cluster 4 fit a unique category for which the nature of the flight is of greatest importance. Training flight crews to handle potential threats against aircraft is a crucial element in aviation security; understanding the potential threat on flights also helps aviation security develop and evaluate crew training and standards. This study employed content analysis to collect relevant information on hijacking incidents using data collected on176 hijackings from 1993 through 2003. Tables, notes, references