POLITICS

Terrorism 'Hot Spots' In United States Pinpointed In New Report

01/31/2012 09:00 am ET | Updated Jan 31, 2012

A study of nearly 40 years of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil reveals that nearly a third took place in just five major urban "hot spots": New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

The new report by researchers for the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism found those cities, along with Chicago and Seattle, experienced the most attacks motivated by causes, ranging from left-wing and right-wing agendas to religious and nationalist ones, as well as some single-issue rationales. Their findings were based on information in the consortium's Global Terrorism Database.

Manhattan saw the most attacks, with 343. Los Angeles was next with 156, Miami-Dade County had 103, San Francisco had 99 and Washington had 79, according to the report. In all, the researchers identified 65 of 3,143 U.S. counties as hot spots.

Although big cities have remained the most frequent targets of terrorist activities over the decades, smaller, more rural counties such as Arizona's Maricopa County -- which includes Phoenix -- have emerged as hot spots in recent years as domestic terrorism in those areas has increased.

"Mainly, terror attacks have been a problem in the bigger cities, but rural areas are not exempt," said Gary LaFree, director of the consortium and lead author of the new report. "The main attacks driving Maricopa into recent hot spot status are the actions of radical environmental groups, especially the Coalition to Save the Preserves. So, despite the clustering of attacks in certain regions, it is also clear that hot spots are dispersed throughout the country and include places as geographically diverse as counties in Arizona, Massachusetts, Nebraska and Texas."

Certain counties experienced more terrorist attacks fueled by a specific type of motivation, the researchers found. For instance, Texas' Lubbock County has seen only extreme right-wing terrorism, whereas extreme left-wing terrorism has cropped up in the New York City borough of the Bronx, among other places.

"The 1970s were dominated by extreme left-wing terrorist attacks," said co-author Bianca Bersani, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. "Far left-wing terrorism in the U.S. is almost entirely limited to the 1970s with few events in the 1980s and virtually no events after that."

Researchers defined a "hot spot" as any county hit by terrorism more than six times from 1970 to 2008, the most recent year studied. Read the whole report here.

CORRECTION: This story previously stated there were 343 attacks in New York City, when there were in fact that many attacks in Manhattan alone. The error has been corrected.

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