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Analyzing person‐exposure patterns in lone‐actor terrorism

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Criminology & Public Policy

Published online on


--- - |2+ Research Summary The lone‐actor terrorist population can be extremely heterogeneous and difficult to detect. Intelligence is vital to countering this threat. We devise a typology of person–exposure patterns (PEPs) that could serve as a framework for intelligence gathering and threat assessment. We use cluster analysis and a risk analysis framework (RAF) to identify relations among three components: propensity, situation, and network. The results of the analysis reveal four PEPs: solitary, susceptible, situational, and selection. The solitary PEP lacks common indicators of a propensity to pursue terrorist action. The susceptible PEP reveals cognitive susceptibility, manifesting as mental illness, to be a key factor in the emergence of a terrorist propensity. The situational PEP demonstrates how situational stressors may act as warnings of acceleration toward violent action. Lastly, the selection PEP demonstrates higher frequencies of leakage and antecedent violent behaviors. Policy Implications Our findings have two key policy implications. First, given the multifinality of terrorism risk indicators, we suggest a move toward a structured‐professional judgement approach to the risk analysis of lone‐actor terrorists. Second, we present the PEP typology as a framework for intelligence gathering. Existing frameworks are predominantly focused on mobilization indicators. We suggest expanding data collection to include propensity and situational indicators, as operationalized here, and using the PEP typology to inform decisions about the emergence of the motivation to commit an attack. To do so, it is necessary to pursue a multiagency approach to intelligence gathering. - 'Criminology &Public Policy, EarlyView. '