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Assessing Risk of Terrorist Acts by Looking at Location Data and Demographic and Social Characteristics

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2023

According to the American Terrorism Study, 296 terrorism incidents occurred in the United States from 9/11 through 2019. In domestic terrorism investigations, as in conventional policing, place matters. Although the location of terrorist violence is critical, the places where a terrorist lives and plans violent acts can also represent vital evidence. Much of the existing research connecting location to the risk of terrorism in particular places has relied on statistical models designed to predict how a single factor can increase or decrease the risk of terrorism in a particular location. However, the risk of terrorism is based on multiple, interacting factors, rather than on a single variable. With that in mind, a research team funded by the National Institute of Justice applied two advanced analytical tools for interpreting location data: risk terrain modeling and conjunctive analysis. Combining the analytical power of conjunctive analysis and risk terrain modeling offers promise for enhancing the ability to predict where future terror-related activity is more likely to occur. The relatively small number of terrorist attacks in the United States makes it difficult to collect enough data to assess the risk of terrorism-related events. By combining data from multiple categories, this study aimed to generate findings of greater significance to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as well as the research community. A significant implication of the research is that this approach can be used to train community members, as well as law enforcement, on possible locations of terrorist acts.