Changes in Worldwide Terrorism


On Wednesday, October 17, from 1:00 - 2:00 pm, START Founding Director Gary LaFree will give a lecture on the future of terrorism. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated. If you are not a START affiliate, please email Eva Coll ( if you're interested in attending for more information.

The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) now includes data on nearly 180,000 terrorist attacks, world-wide from 1970-2017. Based on the assumption that the patterns observed in terrorism over the past 50 years will continue into the future, researchers can make predictions about how terrorism is likely to evolve in the years ahead, including predictions on trends in terrorism, the deadliness of attacks, and the concentration of attacks in time and space. Conclusions about terrorism drawn from a very large data set are often quite different than the portrayal of individual terrorist attacks in the media. In contrast to the media, most terrorist attacks are not very deadly, very few rely on sophisticated weapons or ingenious plots. Many terrorist attacks fail. But terrorism is also evolving. The role of the internet and the social media has been especially important. Dr. LaFree will discuss how the locus of terrorism has continued to move to new locations over time, and conclude with some policy observations about the future of terrorism and the implications of terrorism for democratic institutions.

Gary LaFree is Professor and Chair of the Criminology and Criminal Justice department, and formerly the Director of the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. He received his Ph.D. in Sociology from Indiana University in 1979. During 2005-2006, Dr. LaFree served as President of the American Society of Criminology (ASC). Dr. LaFree was named a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology in 2006 and a member of the National Academy of Science's Committee on Law and Justice in 2008. He has also served as the Past President of the ASC’s Division on International Criminology (1991-1993), the chair of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Crime, Law and Deviance (1991-1993), the Executive Board of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation (2001-2006), and the Executive Committee of the Justice Research Statistics Association (2000-2001, 1993-1994).

While at the University of Maryland, Dr. LaFree has been a founding member of the Democracy Collaborative and an invited member of the National Consortium of Violence Research. Before joining the faculty at Maryland, Dr. LaFree served as the Chair of the Sociology and Criminology Department at the University of New Mexico for six years and as the Director of the New Mexico Criminal Justice Statistics Analysis Center for 13 years. Dr. LaFree was appointed by the Governor of New Mexico to chair the State Crime and Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council—a position that he filled for four years.

Dr. LaFree received the G. Paul Sylvestre Award for outstanding achievements in advancing criminal justice statistics in 1994, and the Phillip Hoke Award for excellence in applied research in 1994 and 1998, from the Justice Research Statistics Association. LaFree has written more than 60 articles and book chapters and three books and is currently on the editorial boards of seven journals.