“A Look at Terrorist Behavior” Study by Smith


Terrorists’ behavior involves murder, property destruction, and unleashing social threats (Wilson, 2000). Past empirical research study on terrorism indicates that terrorist groups suffer from trauma right from the infancy stage. They are presumed to have developed fundamental extreme beliefs that strongly impacted their lives and completely changed their perceptions and motives in terms of behavioral patterns. They use terrorism as a weapon to fight against what they dislike or those whom they perceive to be enemies (Wilson, 2000). Certainly, terrorism has been used as a political weapon for the weak minority in ascending to power. It may not be easy to identify the behavioral trend of a terrorist since the various groups involved are very secretive (Wilson, 2000). For instance, terrorists are said to commit minor crimes in the process of attempting to organize major attacks (Smith, 2008). It is for this reason that they are sometimes confused with general criminals since they first engage in ordinary robberies to gather resources for future terror attacks. Nevertheless, there is a need for individuals and the society at large to study terrorists’ behavior such as social isolation, stressfulness, and over-excitement so that it can be easy to identify and possibly apprehend them (Wilson, 2000).

How close the terrorists lived in proximity to the place where the terrorist act occurred

The study conducted on terrorist behavior indicated that the latter often target attack sites that are easily accessible. Researchers found out that 44% of terrorists live approximately 30 miles from their target sites (Smith, 2008). They tend to prepare in advance at their places of residence while engaging in a robbery with violence to fund their activities. Additionally, terrorists prefer attacking local sites in order to avoid costs incurred in traveling to distant places (Smith, 2008). Moreover, they have more knowledge of local geography, unlike strange sites. New immigration statuses discourage them from attacking foreign sites. Additionally, the desires to avoid public attention make them perpetrate acts of violence easily in their local areas than in far locations. However, it is worth noting that criminal activities committed to funding operations are done far from the targeted site to avoid drawing attention from the public (Smith, 2008).

The preparation time for terrorists before committing the act of terrorism

The duration taken to gather materials for the attack varies from time to time. Terrorists often begin to prepare for attacks in different timelines depending on the groups’ ideologies. Most terrorist groups have varying attack cycles depending on the scope of the planned attack (Smith, 2008). This affects the timeline for committing attacks. In most cases, dangerous weapons like bombs and other explosives may not be easily available (Wilson, 2000). Moreover, knowledge of the targeted site determines how quickly they can attack. For example, if the group is not conversant with the site, it may take time to survey the site well before the actual event. According to Smith (2008), the majority of the terror attacks conducted range from an average of six months preparation prior to the attack. For instance, the right-wing and single-issue terrorists were found to take less time to prepare for attacks than international terrorists (Smith, 2008). The international terrorists were found to take time in preparation due to delayed coordination in the surveying of sites.

A difference in proximity and preparation/timing for domestic and international terrorists

Domestic terrorists were found to take less time span to prepare and launch an attack since there was no need for coordinated violence (Smith, 2008). Besides, domestic terrorists are able to access the target sites easily. Smith asserts that a short distance between staging an attack site enables them to carry on their preparation within a short time span. This makes it easier for the group to inspect the target, purchase explosives as well as deliver them to the site in time (Smith, 2008). International terrorists take a lot of time in preparation, probably due to the size of the group involved. Evidence indicates that the minimum time taken by this group was approximately three months. However, terrorist attacks take up to a period of six months to get prepared (Smith, 2008). The international terrorist must at one point require the assistance of the locals in carrying out acts of terrorism since they are far from the site of the attack. This might as well cost them a lot of time (Smith, 2008).

The implications of the finding of proximity and preparation time for law enforcement

The law enforcement agencies require information on the proximity of the terrorist groups and their preparation time (Smith, 2008). Findings on the proximity of the staging sites in relation to attack sites will help the police to easily coordinate with the locals and revert acts of terror before they are executed. When the police manage to track down patterns followed during attacks, it is easier for them to trace suspects. According to Smith (2008), it is important for law enforcement agencies to have adequate information on how local preparations are done in order to formulate appropriate mitigation measures. Moreover, further research on this subject indicates that acts of terrorism are locally based (Wilson, 2000). People in the attack-prone areas should be involved to help law agencies and police officers in seeking and hunting down suspected perpetrators.


Smith, B, (2008). A Look at terrorist Behavior: How They Prepare, Where They Strike. National Institute of Justice Journal. 260: 1-6.

Wilson, M. (2000). Toward a Model of Terrorist Behavior in Hostage-Taking Incidents. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44(4): 403-424.

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