How and Why Socio-Politically Motivated Crimes are Completed

The posts below are brief summaries of 14-week research projects designed and carried out by our student team. tPP plans to release the full studies as peer-reviewed publications in the future.

How and Why Socio-Politically Motivated Crimes are Completed

Tia Turner and Brenda Uriona

Brian Jackson, a senior physical scientist at the RAND Corporation, and David Frelinger, a senior policy analyst at RAND, constructed a report stating three main characteristics of what causes terrorist attacks to succeed or fail: terrorist group capabilities and resources, the requirements of the operation it attempted or is planning to attempt, and the relevance and reliability of security countermeasures. Utilizing the entirety of tPP dataset, we tested their theoretical framework on terrorism attacks using QCA complimented by frequency distributions and chi-squared analysis. With this, we expanded upon their framework by utilizing the dataset’s inclusivity of all socio-politically motivated crimes. We measured attacker group capabilities as a binary of the perpetrator’s group affiliation or lack thereof and measured operational complexity through the variable “Tactic,” redefined in terms of violence as a binary of “Yes”- violent or “No”- nonviolent. Crimes coded as violent are operationally defined to have greater complexity than nonviolent ones (see Figure 1 below).

We believe and assume completion of a crime will be significantly dependent on type of instigator and violent or nonviolent tactic. Additionally, we are adding upon the framework a more specific take onto instigator identity with tPP variable “‘Other’ Status.” If tests run on othering bring rise to a significant indication of whether or not a crime was completed, we plan to examine which trait characteristics are possibly targeted by security countermeasures, if any.

Altogether, these will reveal how and why socio-politically motivated crimes are completed and what can be done as time goes on. Work like this is essential because of its ability to show judicial bias. We believe if “Other” status is a significant indicator of crime completion it may be caused by Othering from counter securities and law enforcement’s implicit bias. Understanding indicators of why a crime is completed to at least some measure of success is critical for developing effective security measures. By testing all socio-politically motivated crimes, signs will prove to have greater generalizability that can help create more exhaustive and efficient consideration and efforts against crime.

In the end, both the QCA and exhaustive CHAID classification tree analysis (Figure 2) showed “Tactic” and “Group affiliation” to be significant indicators for “Completion of crime,” proving dependent correlation.

Overall, “Group Affiliation” proved to be the strongest indicator with a p-value of 0.00 at the 95% confidence level. Crimes committed by perpetrators with group affiliation are significantly more likely to succeed (61%) compared to perpetrators without group affiliation (39%). Analysis of “Tactic” at the 95% confidence level, p = 0.013, shows crimes utilizing a violent tactic, meaning one of greater operational complexity, are significantly less likely to be completed (55%) than crimes using a nonviolent tactic (45%). Alternatively, opposing our hypothesis, “‘Other’ status” is not indicative of crime success or failure. Future research could focus on more specific trait characteristics of the variables found significant through this study. Using what is commonly found in group capability and operational complexity within large datasets like tPP (e.g. pre-incident indicators) can ensure reliability and continue to aid in the establishment of more effective security countermeasures.



Brian A. Jackson, and David A. Frelinger. Understanding Why Terrorist Operations Succeed or Fail. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2009.

Loadenthal, Michael, et al. 2019. “The Prosecution Project (tPP)” (Version March 2019) [Dataset]. Miami University Sociology Department.

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