Terrorism has become more salient in recent decades after the devastating attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001. As a response to those attacks, the US federal government has concentrated resources to stop terrorism and organized a network of academic researchers to better understand it. One result of this effort is the development of the Global Terrorism Database, which is the most comprehensive open source chronicle of terrorist events over the past four decades. The dataset is the first to provide objective information allowing us to observe changes in trends, and the behavior of more than 2,000 terrorist organizations. From it, we know that terrorists most often rely on readily available weapons such as explosives or firearms, and that they most often direct their attacks toward convenient targets, such as private citizens. Despite the simplicity of their methods, terrorists do sometimes rely on sophisticated technology to coordinate attacks. Thus, it is critical that law enforcement also adopt more sophisticated approaches to process the massive amounts of information that are produced during a rapidly evolving situation or the aftermath of a terrorist attack. Further, in order to be effective in reducing terrorist risk, we must examine what has worked in the past. Thus far research has shown that using repressive strategies often increases terrorism, but new evidence suggests that improving the well-being of the terrorists' constituency might lessen attacks.
Dugan, Laura. 2016. "Terrorism." In The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, ed. Wesley G. Jennings. West Sussex: Wiley Blackwell. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118519639.wbecpx207/abstract