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UK-based Terrorists’ Antecedent Behaviour: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis

Griffiths, G; Johnson, SD; Chetty, K; (2017) UK-based Terrorists’ Antecedent Behaviour: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis. Applied Geography , 86 pp. 274-282. 10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.06.007. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Terrorism is a real and present danger. The build-up to an attack includes planning, travel, and reconnaissance which necessarily require the offender to move through their environment. Whilst research has examined patterns of terrorist attack locations, with a few exceptions (e.g. Rossmo & Harries, 2011), it has not examined the spatial behavior of the terrorists themselves. In this paper, we investigate whether the spatial mobility patterns of terrorists resemble those of criminals (and the wider population) and if these change in the run up to their attacks. METHOD: Using mobile phone data records for the ringleaders of four different UK-based terrorist plots in the months leading up to their attacks, we examine the frequency with which terrorists visit different locations, how far they travel from key anchor points such as their home, the distance between sequential cell-site hits and how their range of movement varies as the planned time to attack approaches. CONCLUSIONS: Like the wider population (and criminals), the sample of terrorists examined exhibited predictable patterns of spatial behavior. Most movements were close to their home location or safe house, and they visited a relatively small number of locations most of the time. Disaggregating these patterns over time provided mixed evidence regarding the way in which their spatial activity changed as the time to the planned attack approached. The findings are interpreted in terms of how they inform criminological understanding of the spatial behavior of terrorists, and the implications for law enforcement.

Type: Article
Title: UK-based Terrorists’ Antecedent Behaviour: A Spatial and Temporal Analysis
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.06.007
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2017.06.007
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: Terrorism; Spatial Behavior; Routine Activity Space; Distance-Decay
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/1554779
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