Testing a Rational Choice Model of Airline Hijackings

  • Laura Dugan
  • Gary LaFree
  • Alex R. Piquero
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 3495)


Using data that combines information from the Federal Aviation Administration, the RAND Corporation, and a newly developed database on global terrorist activity, we are able to examine trends in 1,101 attempted aerial hijackings that occurred around the world from 1931 to 2003. We have especially complete information for 828 hijackings that occurred before 1986. Using a rational choice theoretical framework, we employ econometric time-series methods to estimate the impact of several major counter hijacking interventions on the likelihood of differently motivated hijacking events and to model the predictors of successful hijackings. Some of the interventions examined use certainty-based strategies of target hardening to reduce the perceived likelihood of success while others focus on raising the perceived costs of hijacking by increasing the severity of punishment. We also assess which specific intervention strategies were most effective for deterring hijackers whose major purpose was terrorism related. We found support for the conclusion that new hijacking attempts were less likely to be undertaken when the certainty of apprehension was increased through metal detectors and law enforcement at passenger checkpoints. We also found that fewer hijackers attempted to divert airliners to Cuba once that country made it a crime to hijack flights. Our results support the contagion view that hijacking rates significantly increase after a series of hijackings closely-clustered in time. Finally, we found that policy interventions only significantly decrease the likelihood of non-terrorist-related hijackings.


Rational Choice Rational Choice Theory Metal Detector Contagion View Federal Aviation Administration 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Allison, P.D.: Survival Analysis Using the SAS System A Practical Guide. SAS Institute Inc., Cary (1995)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Andenaes, J.: Punishment and Deterrence. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor (1974)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Becker, G.S.: Crime and punishment: An economic approach. Journal of Political Economy 76, 169–217 (1968)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bijwaard, G.E., Franses, P.H., Paap, R.: Modeling Purchases as Repeat Events. Econometric Institute Report EI 2003-45 (2003)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Nagin, D.S.: Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimating the Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates. National Academy of Sciences, Washington (1978)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Carroll, J.S.: A Psychological Approach to Deterrence: A Psychodynamic Study of Deviations in Various Expressions of Sexual Behavior. Citadel Press, New York (1978)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chauncey, R.: Deterrence: Certainty, severity, and skyjacking. Criminology 12, 447–473 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Clarke, R.V., Cornish, D.B.: Modeling offenders’ decisions: A framework for research and policy. In: Tonry, M., Morris, N. (eds.) Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research, vol. 6. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1985)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Clarke, R.V., Felson, M.: Introduction: Criminology, routine activity, and rational choice. In: Clarke, R.V., Felson, M. (eds.) Routine Activity and Rational Choice, Advances in Criminological Theory, vol. 5 (1993), Transaction New Brunswick, NJGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cornish, D.B., Clarke, R.V. (eds.): The Reasoning Criminal. Springer, New York (1986)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Cox, D.: Regression Models and Life-Tables. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society B (Methodological) 34, 187–220 (1972)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dornin, R.D.B.: Cooper is gone but his legend lives on. CNN Interactive, Cable News Network, Inc., November 23 (1996)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ehrlich, I.: Participation in illegitimate activities: A theoretical and empirical investigation. Journal of Political Economy 81, 521–565 (1973)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Enders, W., Sandler, T.: The Effectiveness of Anti Terrorism policies: A Vector–Autoregression Intervention Analysis. American Political Science Review 87, 829–844 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aircraft Hijackings and Other Criminal Acts Against Civil Aviation Statistical and Narrative Reports, FAA, Office of Civil Aviation Security, Washington, DC (1983)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Gibbs, J.: Crime, Punishment, and Deterrence. Elsevier Scientific Publishing Co., Amsterdam (1975)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Hamblin, R.J., Jacobsen, R.B., Miller, J.L.L.: A Mathematical Theory of Social Change. Wiley-Interscience, New York (1973)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Holden, R.T.: The contagiousness of aircraft hijacking. American Journal of Sociology 91, 874–904 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Jacobs, B.: Crack Dealers and Restrictive Deterrence: Identifying Narcs. Criminology 34, 409–431 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Jeffery, C.R.: Crime prevention through environmental design. Sage, Beverly Hills (1971)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Karber, P.A.: Re-constructing global aviation in an era of the civil aircraft as a weapon of destruction. Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 25, 781–814 (2002)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Kelly, P.J., Lim, L.L.-Y.: Survival analysis for recurrent event data: An application to childhood infectious diseases. Statistics in Medicine 19, 13–33 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Klepper, S., Nagin, D.S.: Tax Compliance and Perceptions of the Risks of Detection and Criminal Prosecution. Law & Society Review 23, 209–240 (1989)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    LaFree, G., Dugan, L.: Global Terrorism Database. University of Maryland (2004)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Landes, W.M.: An Economic Study of U.S. Aircraft Hijackings, 1961-1976. Journal of Law and Economics 21, 1–31 (1978)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Levitt, S.D.: Testing the Economic Model of Crime: The National Hockey League’s Two Referee Experiment. Contributions to Economic Analysis and Policy 1, 1–19 (2002)Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Merari, A.: Attacks on civil aviation: Trends and lessons. In: Wilkinson, P., Jenkins, B.M. (eds.) Aviation Terrorism and Security. Frank Cass, London (1999)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Minor, W.W.: Skyjacking crime control models. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 66, 94–105 (1975)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Nagin, D.S.: Criminal deterrence research at the outset of the twenty-first Century. In: Tonry, M. (ed.) Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, vol. 23. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1998)Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Nagin, D.S.: General Deterrence: A Review of Empirical Evidence. In: Blumstein, A., Cohen, J., Nagin, D. (eds.) Deterrence and Incapacitation: Estimates and Effects of Criminal Sanctions on Crime Rates. National Academy of Sciences, Washington (1978)Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Nagin, D.S., Paternoster, R.: Enduring individual differences and rational choice theories of crime. Law and Society Review 27, 467–496 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    National Materials Advisory Board Airline Passenger Security Screening: New Technologies and Implementation Issues. National Academies Press, Washington (1996)Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    O’Brien, R.M.: Measuring the convergence/divergence of “serious crime” arrest rates for males and females: 1960-1995. Journal of Quantitative Criminology 15, 97–114 (1999)Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Paternoster, R.: The deterrent effect of the perceived certainty and severity of punishment: A review of the evidence and issues. Justice Quarterly 4, 173–217 (1987)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Paternoster, R., Piquero, A.: Reconceptualizing deterrence: An empirical test of personal and vicarious experiences. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 32, 251–286 (1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Paternoster, R., Simpson, S.S.: Sanction threats and appeals to morality: testing a rational choice model of corporate crime. Law and Society Review 30(3), 549–583 (1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Phillips, D.S.: The Story of Air Piracy. Harrap, London (1973)Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Piliavin, I., Gartner, R., Thorton, C., Matsueda, R.: Crime, deterrence, and rational choice. American Sociological Review 51, 101–119 (1986)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Piquero, A., Paternoster, R.: An application of Stafford and Warr’s reconceptualization of deterrence to drinking and driving. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 35, 3–39 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Piquero, A.R., Pogarsky, G.: Beyond Stafford and Warr’s reconceptualization of deterrence: Personal and vicarious experiences, impulsivity, and offending behavior. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 39, 153–186 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Piquero, A.R., Stephen, G.: Tibbetts offenders’ decision making: toward a more complete model of rational offending. Justice Quarterly 13(3), 481–510 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Pogarsky, G.: Identifying “deterrable” offenders: Implications for research on deterrence. Justice Quarterly 19, 431–452 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    RAND Black Panthers attack airlines and airports target. MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base, MIPT (National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism) Chronology Data 1968-1997 (2001) Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Rich, E.: Flying Scared. Stein & Day, New York (1972)Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Ross, L., La Free, G.: Deterrence in Criminology and Social Policy. In: Smelser, N.J., Gerstein, D.R. (eds.) Behavioral and Social Science: Fifty Years of Discovery. National Academy Press, Washington (1986)Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Simpson, S.S., Piquero, N.L., Paternoster, R.: Exploring the Micro-Macro Link in Corporate Crime Research. In: Bamberger, P., Sonnenstuhl, W.J. (eds.) Research in the Sociology of Organizations. JAI Press, Greenwich (1998)Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Smith, M.J., Cornish, D.B.: Theory for Practice in Situational Crime Prevention. Crime Prevention Studies, vol. 16. Criminal Justice Press, New York (2004)Google Scholar
  48. 48.
    Stafford, M., Warr, M.: A reconceptualization of general and specific deterrence. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 30, 123–135 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. 49.
    Whittaker, J.: Graphical Models in Applied Multivariate Statistics. Wiley, New York (1990)zbMATHGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Wright, R.T., Decker, S.H.: Burglars on the Job: Streetlife and Residential Breakins. Northeastern University Press, Boston (1994)Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Wright, R.T., Decker, S.H.: Armed Robbers in Action:Stickups and Street Culture. Northeastern University Press, Boston (1997)Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Zimring, F., Hawkins, G.: Deterrence. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1973)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura Dugan
    • 1
  • Gary LaFree
    • 1
  • Alex R. Piquero
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of MarylandCollege Park
  2. 2.Department of Criminology, Law and SocietyUniversity of FloridaGainesville

Personalised recommendations