What is the Evidence on Counterterrorism Strategies?
Counterterrorism strategies are listed under “What do we need to know more about?” on our Review of the Research Evidence.
A Campbell Collaboration systematic review by Lum and colleagues (2005) suggested that there was very little research on counterterrorism. Despite massive federal funding to the Department of Homeland Security in the past decade, there remains a dearth of rigorous research on the effectiveness of local and federal law enforcement efforts to combat terrorism. One indicator of success, of course, is the lack of a major terrorist event on U.S. soil in the 15 years since the attacks on September 11, 2001. The rarity of terrorist attacks makes rigorous evaluation difficult.
It is also important, however, to evaluate how anti-terrorism programs may impact rates of crime and disorder. A small number of studies suggest that increased police presence due to the threat of terrorism can reduce crime. For example, Di Tella and Schargrodsky (2004) found that car theft declined on blocks where officers were assigned to guard synagogues following a terrorist attack on the Jewish Center in Buenos Aires. Similarly, Klick and Tabarrok (2005) found that crime was lower in Washington, D.C. on days with higher terrorist alerts, particularly on the National Mall where many of the monuments that could be potential terrorist targets are located. These two studies suggest that efforts to combat terrorism may have some spillover benefits on more general crime and disorder issues, but more rigorous studies in this area are needed.