Security Journal

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 153–167 | Cite as

Domestic extremist criminal damage events: behaving like criminals or terrorists?

  • Arlene Robinson
  • Zoe Marchment
  • Paul GillEmail author
Original Article


Property damage is a ubiquitous criminal direct action tactic perpetrated by left-wing extremists in Bristol to advance a variety of causes, yet it remains understudied. This study uniquely contributes to the field by analysing the selection of targets for property damage by left-wing extremists in the British town of Bristol. Using police data and online claims of responsibility, this study analyses a number of situational factors providing guardianship at the target locations of 95 Domestic Extremism incidents and compares them with 95 conventional property damage incidents. The results suggest that left-wing extremists do not behave in the same manner as conventional criminals as they fail to conform to theoretical expectations regarding the effect of guardianship on target selection decisions. Instead, Domestic Extremists appear to adhere to decision-making schemas more commonly associated with terrorists. This raises important questions about the relevance and usefulness of these theoretical frameworks for understanding Domestic Extremism.


Direct action Property damage Left-wing extremism Domestic extremism Situational crime prevention 



This project has received funding from The European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Grant Agreement No. 758834).


  1. ACPO. 2013. NCDE National Co-ordinator Domestic Extremism [WWW] Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO). Accessed 05 Oct 2013.
  2. Anonymous. 2013a. Bristol City Council Mobile CCTV Vans Attacked [WWW] Indymedia UK. Accessed 30 Aug 13.
  3. Anonymous. 2011b. Banks Smashed in Bristol [WWW] Indymedia UK. Accessed 30 Aug 13.
  4. Anonymous. 2011c. Banks and Tesco’s Smashed, Bristol (UK) [WWW] Act For Freedom Now! Accessed 03 Jan 14.
  5. Anonymous. 2014d. Gross Misconduct and the Guerilla Massive: Poems and Lunacy from Bristol [WWW] NoState325. Accessed 05 Mar 14.
  6. Borum, Randy, and Chuck Tilby. 2005. Anarchist Direct Actions: A Challenge for Law Enforcement. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism 28 (3): 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brantingham, Paul, and Patricia Brantingham. 2008. Crime pattern theory. In Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis, ed. Richard Wortley and Lorraine Mazerolle, 78–93. Willan: Portland.Google Scholar
  8. Bryman, Alan. 2008. Social Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Caplan, Bryan. 2006. Terrorism: The Relevance of the Rational Choice Model. Public Choice 128 (1–2): 91–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clarke, Roland V. 2008. Situational crime prevention. In Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis, ed. Richard Wortley and Lorraine Mazerolle, 178–194. Willan: Portland.Google Scholar
  11. Clarke, Roland V. 2013. Seven Misconceptions of Situational Crime Prevention. In Handbook of Crime Prevention Community Safety, ed. Nick Tilley, 39–70. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Clarke, Roland V., and Graeme R. Newman. 2006. Outsmarting the Terrorists. London: Praeger Security International.Google Scholar
  13. Cornish, D.B., and R.V. Clarke. 2003. Opportunities, precipitators and criminal decisions: A reply toWortley's critique of situational crime prevention. Crime Prevention Studies 16: 41–96.Google Scholar
  14. Cornish, Derek B., and Roland V. Clarke. 2008. The rational choice perspective. In Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis, ed. Richard Wortley and Lorraine Mazerolle, 21–47. Willan: Portland.Google Scholar
  15. Diani, Mario. 2005. Cities in the World: Local Civil Society and Global Issues in Britain. In Transnational Protest and Global Activists, ed. Donatella Della Porta and Sidney Tarrow, 45–71. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  16. Doherty, Brian, Alexandra Plows, and Derek Wall. 2003. The Preferred Way of doing Things: The British Direct Action Movement. Parliamentary Affairs 56: 669–686.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Felson, Marcus, and Rachel Boba. 2010. Crime and Everyday Life, 4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Franks, B. 2003. ‘Direct Action Ethic’, Anarchist Studies, Vol. 1, 13–14. Accessed 16 Aug 13.
  19. Fussey, Pete. 2011. An Economy of Choice? Terrorist Decision-Making and Criminological Rational Choice Theories Reconsidered. Security Journal 24: 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garrett, Ronnie. 2004. Tree huggers with Hand Grenades? Law Enforcement Technology, 88–95.Google Scholar
  21. Gill, Paul, Marchment, Zoe, Corner, Emily, and Bouhana, Noémie. 2018. Terrorist decision making in the context of risk, attack planning, and attack commission. Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. Scholar
  22. Gordon, Uri. 2007. Anarchism reloaded. Journal of Political Ideologies 12 (1): 29–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. HMIC. 2012. A Review of National Police Units Which Provide Intelligence on Criminality Associated with Protest. Accessed 05 Oct 13.
  24. Hollis, Meghan E., Marcus Felson, and Brandon C. Welsh. 2013. The Capable Guardian in Routine Activities Theory: A Theoretical and Conceptual Reappraisal. Crime Prevention and Community Safety 15 (1): 65–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hollis-Peel, Meghan E., Danielle M. Reynald, Maud Van Bavel, Henk Elffers, and Brandon C. Welsh. 2011. Guardianship for Crime Prevention: A Critical Review of the Literature. Crime, Law and Social Change 56 (1): 53–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hox, J. Joop, and Hennie R. Boeije. 2005. Data collection, primary versus secondary. Encyclopedia of Social Measurement 1 (1): 593–599.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Improvised Guerilla Formation. 2013. Barclays Bank Firebombed in BristolStatement and Reflection by a FAI Group [WWW] Bristol Indymedia. Accessed 30 Aug 13.
  28. Kinna, Ruth. 2005. A Beginner’s Guide. Anarchism. Oxford: Oneworld.Google Scholar
  29. LaGrange, Teresa C. 1999. The Impact of Neighborhoods, Schools, and Malls on the Spatial Distribution of Property Damage. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 36: 393–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Marchment, Zoe, Noemie Bouhana, and Paul Gill. 2018. Lone Actor Terrorists: A Residence-to-Crime Approach. Terrorism and Political Violence. Scholar
  31. Morris, S. 2015. Bristol Activist Jailed For Two Years for Targeting Police Cars With Tyre Spikes. The Guardian 24 February, 2015.Google Scholar
  32. MI5. 2013. Domestic Extremism [WWW] Security Service MI5. Accessed 05 Oct 13.
  33. National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO). 2009. Counter Terrorism Protective Security Advice for Higher and Further Education.Google Scholar
  34. Newton, Andrew D., and Kate J. Bowers. 2007. The Geography of Bus Shelter Damage: The Influence of Crime, Neighbourhood Characteristics and Land-Use. Internet Journal of Criminology.
  35. Purdue, D., M. Diani, and I. Lindsay. 2004. Civic Networks in Bristol and Glasgow. Community Development Journal 39 (3): 277–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Roach, Jason, Paul Ekblom, and Richard Flynn. 2005. The Conjunction of Terrorist Opportunity: A Framework for Diagnosing and Preventing Acts of Terrorism. Security Journal 18 (3): 7–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schuurman, B., E. Bakker, P. Gill, and N. Bouhana. 2018. Lone Actor Terrorist Attack Planning and Preparation: A Data-Driven Analysis. Journal of Forensic Sciences 63 (4): 1191–1200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Staniforth, Andrew. 2009. Dangerous Liaisons: Domestic Extremists. Police Review, 28–29.Google Scholar
  39. Tewksbury, Richard, and Elizabeth Ehrhardt Mustaine. 2000. Routine Activities and Vandalism: A Theoretical and Empirical Study. Journal of Crime and Justice 23 (1): 81–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Von Lampe, Klaus. 2011. The Application of the Framework of Situational Crime Prevention to ‘Organized Crime’. Criminology & Criminal Justice 11 (2): 145–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wall, Derek. 1999. Earth First! And the Anti-Roads Movement: Radical Environmentalism and Comparative Social Movements. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Welsh, Brandon C., Mark E. Mudge, and David P. Farrington. 2010. Reconceptualizing Public Area Surveillance and Crime Prevention: Security Guards, Place Managers and Defensible Space. Security Journal 23 (4): 299–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wilcox, Pamela, Tamara D. Madensen, and Marie Skubak Tillyer. 2007. Guardianship in Context: Implications for Burglary Victimization Risk and Prevention. Criminology 45 (4): 771–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Security and Crime ScienceUniversity College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations