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Geospatial Analysis of Terrorist Activities: The Identification of Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Preparatory Behavior of International and Environmental Terrorists

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)
Original Solicitation

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2005, $314,840)

Limited data availability has precluded a thorough analysis of the spatial and temporal patterns of terrorist activities. Until recently, quantitative or relational datasets that included detailed information about the incident, as well as preparatory acts or crimes, detailed offender information, and information on associated terrorist groups(s) had not been available. Even if the data had been available, it was not certain whether spatial and temporal patterns could be identified. Currently, a quantitative and relational database created by the Terrorism Research Center in Fulbright College (TRC) at the University of Arkansas (NIJ Award #2003-DT-CX-0003) has been established and patterns of terrorist activities are indeed emerging. The spatial and temporal patterns that have been identified are most prominent among two types of terrorists: international and environmental. This is fortuitous because these are also the two categories of terrorism that the FBI has identified as posing the greatest threat to the United States over the next decade (Jarboe 2002). The proposed project will collect additional data on ancillary offenses and proposed targeting by members of these two types of terrorist groups.

The goal of the proposed project is to divulge spatial and temporal patterns of terrorist activities that will enable law enforcement personnel to detect, disrupt, and prevent terrorist acts. There are five key objectives:
' Extract temporal and spatial data from federal court case records on terrorism defendants who were classified by the FBI as environmental or international terrorists and indicted during the period 1980-2004
' Compile temporal and spatial data on other environmental and international terrorist incidents identified by subject matter experts that will render adequate data for analysis.
' Conduct spatial and temporal analysis of the activities committed by these offenders for the period beginning with the inception of the terrorists' plan to the occurrence/intervention of the terrorist incident or act
' Conduct comparative analyses of terrorist groups' activities for divulgence of different methods and patterns
' Provide access to these patterns through GIS architecture linked to the Pre-Incident Indicators of Terrorist Activities database.

The sample will be derived from two primary sources. The first source included only federal criminal cases resulting from indictment under an FBI terrorism investigation as designated by the Attorney General Guidelines for FBI terrorism investigations. Data collection continues on these cases under separate funding as part of the American Terrorism Study. The second source is derived from data on terrorist incidents compiled by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research for the State and Local Anti-Terrorism Training (SLATT) program. Information on approximately 280 variables will be extracted from open source documents and case files to create a relational database and GIS. These variables will be analyzed for spatial and temporal patterns using
GIS software, and other applicable statistical procedures. Promising results from the current NIJ project suggest that the proposed project will provide extremely useful spatial and temporal indicators/predictors of environmental and international terrorist activities in the U.S. The emerging patterns appear particularly important for local law enforcement. The researchers believe that the study will reveal patterns of terrorist activities that can be used to refine or modify anti-and counter-terrorism strategies, improve the cost effectiveness of terrorism investigations, and increase the probability of successful intervention.


Date Created: August 16, 2005