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Op/Ed: Trajectories of Terrorism

Expert Points to Biggest Three-Year Decline in Attacks Since 1970

By Gary LaFree

Police officer and dog

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A New York City police officer and his dog guard a corner in Times Square after a bombing attempt in December 2017. UMD terrorism researcher Gary LaFree says attacks worldwide are down.

What we think we know about terrorism and what the data actually show can be two different things, says Gary LaFree, director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and one of the original creators of the Global Terrorism Database.

In an essay published this week in The Conversation, LaFree presents the UMD-based research center’s findings to demonstrate that while some hotspots remain, major terror groups have become less active and worldwide terrorism overall is down:

Lost in the headlines, rapidly accelerating news cycles and the pervasive fear generated by terrorist threats is the fact that terrorist attacks worldwide have actually been declining—in some areas, substantially.

Terrorism researchers like me have long noted that the number of terrorist attacks rises and falls in waves, generally lasting several decades.

[...] My colleagues Laura Dugan, Erin Miller and I define terrorism as “the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by non-state actors to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion or intimidation.” The database shows that the world has been gripped by a wave of terrorist attacks that began shortly after the 9/11 attacks.

Read the entire essay in The Conversation.



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