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Terror ‘hot spots’ in the U.S.

U.S. Terrorism Hot Spots Map


A study by university researchers on terror attacks in the U.S. between 1970 and 2008 found some areas in the U.S. have remained hot spots for the activity.

The study, Hot spots of terrorism and other crimes in the United States: 1970 to 2008, was released on Jan. 31 by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). It said during the last 40 years, terrorist activity of many types in the U.S. has been widely dispersed, occurred in every state, with large urban areas seeing a heavier concentration of the activity. The study said Manhattan, Los Angeles, Miami Dade, San Francisco and Washington, DC, are hot spots for terror activity now and have been in the past.

It included many types of “terrorist” activity over four decades in the study, from extreme left and right-wing groups, religious groups to ethno-nationalist/separatist activity.

Along with the urban activity, it also found clusters of terrorist activity in small, rural counties, as well, but added those tend to be more fluid over the years. It said Maricopa County, AZ; Middlesex County, MA; Dakota County, NE; and Harris County, TX have terror clusters. It said 65 out of 3,143 U.S. counties have contained hot spots.

“While the overall percentage of terrorist attacks that result in fatalities is low, the geographic distribution of these events remained similar with large urban centers predominating and yet a good deal of activity in smaller areas as well,” said the study.

It said when data is broken down over the decades, Los Angeles and Manhattan remained hot spots of activity over the years,while more rural areas showed temporary spikes. It said, for instance, in recent years Maricopa County, AZ, has emerged as a hot spot of terrorist attacks, while Conversely, King County, WA, experienced high rates of terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s only.

Over the time period measured, it said ideological motivation accounted for 1,674 terrorist attacks (64% of all terrorist events from 1970 to 2008) occurring in 475 U.S. counties. It said of five ideological categories, 88 counties experienced extreme right-wing terrorism (44 counties were identified as hot spots), 120 counties experienced extreme left-wing terrorism (24 counties were identified as hot spots), 26 experienced religiously motivated terrorist acts (3 counties were identified as hot spots), 56 experienced ethno-nationalist/separatist terrorism (6 counties were identified as hot spots), and 185 experienced single issue events (43 counties were identified as hot spots).

It said, not surprisingly, that extreme left-wing terror activity was concentrated in the 1970’s, while ethno-national/separatist terrorism was concentrated in the 1970s and 1980s. Religiously motivated attacks occurred mostly in the 1980s, while extreme right-wing terrorism was concentrated in the 1990s, and single issue attacks were dispersed across the last three decades (1980s, 1990s, and 2000s).

It said there also seemed to be a link between terror attacks and ordinary crime rates in local areas. “At the county level we find significant correlations between terrorist attacks and total index crimes (based on the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Crime Index1) and homicides (examined for all counties, those with more than 50,000 people, and those with more than 100,000 people).” It said the correlation was far from perfect, but it was statistically significant..

It said terrorism and ordinary crime occur in many of the same areas and that some traditional predictors of ordinary crime can also predict terrorist attacks. It added, however, there is no strong definable link exists between the two. It suggested that more research needed to be done to get a better understanding of the links between terrorism and ordinary crime.

The study also found the percentage of a population that is foreign-born in a county does not significantly influence the likelihood of terrorist attacks, but language diversity evidenced a strong and significant positive relationship with terrorist attacks and ordinary crime. It said more work needs to be done to fully understand the relationship between language diversity and terrorism and ordinary crime. In particular, in future research we plan to identify and isolate potential effects of specific language groups, it said. By: Mark Rockwell

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