World's Largest Unclassified Database of Terror Attacks Now Live Online

Article ID: 530287

Released: 23-May-2007 4:20 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: University of Maryland, College Park

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  • Gary LaFree, director of START and University of Maryland professor of criminology

Newswise — The world's largest unclassified database of terrorism attacks is now available online for general use by researchers, policy-makers, media and the general public " an important tool that the researchers say may aid in the development of more effective responses to terrorism.

The "Global Terrorism Database" was developed by START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism based at the University of Maryland, with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).Available online: http://www.start.umd.edu/data/gtd/.

The database, five years in the making, includes 80,000 terror incidents from 1970 through 2004. START plans to update the database through 2007 within the next 12 months. The Internet site is designed to be as user friendly as possible. Each attack is coded on more than 100 variables to aid in the identification and explanation of trends in domestic and international terrorism.

"This is a powerful new weapon in the hands of researchers and policy-makers who must respond to the threat of terrorism," says Gary LaFree, director of START, a University of Maryland professor and a criminologist by training. "We're not just counting up the number of attacks. We're looking at a long list of specific details, as well as social and economic considerations that may help us understand the "whys" and "hows" of terrorism. This can especially help counterterrorism experts and researchers improve their understanding of violent radical groups and movements, and to predict the nature of future incidents."

Already, searches of the database have offered some myth-busting findings: average age of a terrorist group is one year or less; 74 percent of all groups known to launch attacks between 1970 and 1997 lasted for only 1 year or less; majority of attacks resulted in zero fatalities; 1.2 percent of cases resulted in the death of 25 or more people. Terror incidents began rising some in 1998, and that level remained relatively constant through 2004.

As an example of how the data can be mined to reveal long and short-term trends in terrorism, LaFree points to an earlier study that relied on the database, which showed that British counterterror measures in Northern Ireland may have backfired and helped promote a terror backlash. Details online: http://www.start.umd.edu/publications/research_briefs/.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Intelligence Community have full access to the database, including some incident details not available to the general public.

The database identifies more than 30,000 bombings, 13,400 assassinations and 3,200 kidnappings. Also, it details more than 1,200 terrorist attacks within the United States.

The project began in 2001 when researchers at the University of Maryland obtained a large database originally collected by Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services. This material was computerized, updated and corrected, and coded to maximize its usefulness to researchers. This material covered the period from 1970 through 1997.

The Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies, based in San Jose, California, worked under the supervision of START researchers to update the database through 2004. This material was compiled from international news sources by trained specialists with an expertise in multiple languages.

START is a Center of Excellence supported by the DHS Office of University Programs. The Human Factors Division of the DHS Science and Technology Directorate has also provided support for the Global Terrorism Database, as has the National Institute of Justice.


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