Geographic profiling of lone wolf terrorists: the application of economics, game theory and prospect theory

Phillips, Peter J. (2014) Geographic profiling of lone wolf terrorists: the application of economics, game theory and prospect theory. In: Workshop on Strategic Aspects of Terrorism, Security, and Espionage, 16-19 Jul 2014, State University of New York, Stony Brook, New York, USA.

Text (Accepted Version)

Download (916Kb) | Preview


This paper presents an economic analysis of the choices made by lone wolf terrorists. Using RAND-MIPT data about the fatalities that are inflicted by different attack methods, the paper develops an analysis on a foundation of orthodox utility theory and Markowitz-Tobin approximations. This approach permits a computable opportunity set within a risk-reward or mean-variance framework. Optimal choices can be determined using the Markowitz quadratic programming technique. The framework may provide a useful foundation for an economic perspective on ‘offender profiling’ applied within a terrorism context. Mapping attack methods into mean-variance space provides a more definitive categorisation of the riskiness of attack methods from the terrorist’s perspective and suggests the possibility of identifying the terrorist’s revealed risk preference. Inferences about the unknown offender may be drawn that complement other aspects of the investigative process. One of the key challenges of law enforcement is drawing inferences about the offender’s location and the location of potential targets. Superimposing a game theoretical payoff matrix over a geographic location where payoffs are partially informed by the terrorist’s choices and risk preference may contribute another, economic, perspective to this part of the law enforcement process. Prospect theory may also contribute useful insights into the geographical profiling problem.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 25573
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: This paper was prepared for the Workshop on Strategic Aspects of Terrorism, Security, and Espionage, held at SUNY Stony Brook, New York. This was an invited paper presented on July 17 2014 before an international gathering of terrorism and security experts.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Commerce
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2014 00:52
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2017 01:54
Uncontrolled Keywords: lone wolf, risk-reward, optimal choice, risk preference, law enforcement, offender profiling, geographic profiling, game theory, payoff matrix, prospect theory
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1602 Criminology > 160205 Police Administration, Procedures and Practice
14 Economics > 1402 Applied Economics > 140299 Applied Economics not elsewhere classified
16 Studies in Human Society > 1606 Political Science > 160604 Defence Studies
Socio-Economic Objective: A Defence > 81 Defence > 8101 Defence > 810107 National Security

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only