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The Rational Foraging Terrorist: Analysing the Distances Travelled to Commit Terrorist Violence

Gill, P; Horgan, J; Corner, E; (2017) The Rational Foraging Terrorist: Analysing the Distances Travelled to Commit Terrorist Violence. Terrorism and Political Violence pp. 1-14. 10.1080/09546553.2017.1297707. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

This paper applies the distance-to-crime approach to the case of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and shooting attacks conducted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) during the Northern Ireland conflict, 1970–1998. The aim is to (a) measure the typical ‘distance to crime’ (b) detect whether a distance-decay effect is noticeable and (c) investigate whether there is a discernible difference in the distance traveled depending upon individual offender characteristics or aspects of how the offence was committed. In particular, it highlights that many of the same dynamics that influence offender decision making within the volume crime world, also apply within the terrorism realm. Five findings stand out in particular. First, a distance decay effect is identifiable. Second, younger offenders travel significantly smaller distances. Third, complex attacks typically involve greater distances. Fourth, our results show the ability of leading decision-makers within PIRA to impact upon the day-to-day operations of the field operatives. Together the results reinforce the argument that when we focus on terrorism from a preventative angle, we should focus on their behaviors: what they do rather than remain preoccupied with concerns about who they are and/or what they might be like. Collectively the results also highlight the fact that for a finer-grained understanding of terrorist behavior we need to disaggregate on a number of levels: within the cadre of operatives, across terrorist attacks, across targets and within conflicts.

Type: Article
Title: The Rational Foraging Terrorist: Analysing the Distances Travelled to Commit Terrorist Violence
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/09546553.2017.1297707
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09546553.2017.1297707
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Provisional IRA, situational crime prevention, distance to crime, offender decision making, crime pattern
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Dept of Security and Crime Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10042984
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