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Risk Factors and Lone Actor Violent Events: The Problems of Low Base Rates and Long Observational Periods

Gill, P; Horgan, J; Corner, E; Silver, J; (2017) Risk Factors and Lone Actor Violent Events: The Problems of Low Base Rates and Long Observational Periods. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management , 3 (In press).

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Abstract

A burgeoning literature exists on indicators associated with lone-actor terrorism, spree shooters, mass murders and other forms of targeted violence. Such studies of low- likelihood, high-impact crimes largely suffer from two inter-related problems: low base rates and long observational periods. These studies largely fail to consider whether risk factors are driven by temporal-cohorts within the wider observation pool or are uniform across the expanses of time under consideration. This paper compares a cohort of violent lone actors (composed of lone-actor terrorists, and solo mass murderer attackers) from 1990-2005 with a cohort from 2006 to 2013. We found no significant differences in terms of socio-demographic variables across the two temporal periods. The 2006-2013 cohort is significantly more likely to use the Internet in their attack planning, have been previously imprisoned, engaged in multiple attack methods (e.g. a bombing and a shooting), and targeted ordinary citizens rather than a political or military target for example. The results also indicate that the 2006-2013 period contains fewer offenders who (a) had previous military experience (b) made verbal statements to family/friends/wider audiences about their intent and beliefs (c) socialized face to face with members of a wider network (d) experienced being degraded or the target of an act of prejudice or unfairness (e) experienced a recent stressor and (f) interacted face-to-face with others holding a similar grievance. The conclusion discusses the research and operational implications of these findings.

Type: Article
Title: Risk Factors and Lone Actor Violent Events: The Problems of Low Base Rates and Long Observational Periods
Publisher version: http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/tam/3/1/
Language: English
Keywords: Terrorism, risk factors, indicators, lone actor, mass murderer, threat management
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1521068
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