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

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2008
86 pages
This research expands data collection and data analysis from a preliminary study on the locations and timing of behaviors by international and environmental terrorists in preparing for an attack.
Regarding the location of preparatory activities prior to an attack, slightly over half of both international and environmental terrorists lived within 30 miles of the target in the days immediately preceding the planned attack; and just over 60 percent of the preparatory behaviors of both types of terrorists occurred within this 30-mile radius of the target. For international terrorists, approximately one-half lived within 30 miles of the target, and one-fourth lived just over 800 miles from the target. This same pattern was true for environmental terrorists except for one terrorist group called "the Family." Regarding the timing of preparatory activities, patterns were significantly different for the two types of terrorist groups. For 85 percent of environmental terrorists, the planning period was relatively short, typically within 6 days of the planned attack. For international terrorists, on the other hand, planning activities usually began 4 to 6 months before the attack. International terrorists also engaged in a significantly higher number of preparatory activities per incident compared to environmental terrorists. Preliminary, but inconclusive, data suggests that the earliest preparatory behaviors for both types of terrorist groups involved surveillance or reconnaissance near the target, followed by a period during which preparatory acts were conducted some distance from the target. Nearer the target date, preparatory behaviors then occurred progressively closer to the target site. Information was obtained on 118 environmental and 55 international terrorist attacks that occurred in the United States. Analysis of location was possible for most of these cases; however, data on times were possible for only 38 cases. 8 tables, 23 figures, and 53 references
Date Published: February 1, 2008