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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: environment

Female Terrorists in the United States

Staci Strobl

Crimcast sat down with Dr. Alessandra L. Gonzalez, Princeton University post-doctorate researcher, to discuss her latest work, "How Women Engage Homegrown Terrorism" (with Joshua D.  Freilich, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Steven M. Chermak, Michigan State University) on female terrorists in the United States, published in Feminist Criminology (Volume 9, 2014).  Using the United States Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) Study data of homicides by far-right extremists and arsons and bombings by environmental and animal rights extremists, their analysis reveal the importance of relationships to women’s involvement in terrorism and that recruitment and opportunity differ by ideology. 

Tell us about the U. S. Extremist Crime Database (ECDB) and how it was developed.  It’s a great resource for analysis of terrorist offenders across known cases.

Drs. Freilich and Chermak created the ECDB study in 2005. Since then, the ECDB has been funded by a series of grants from the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate’s University Program Division; and Resilient Systems Division, both directly and through the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). 

The ECDB is an open source relational database that tracks violent and financial crimes by political extremists in the United States. It codes hundreds of attributes related to violent criminal incidents or financial criminal schemes, the perpetrators of these acts, their victims and targets, and the organizations and groups involved, as well as the quality of the open source information found on the case.

The research findings include that the women terrorists studied never act as lone wolves.  They also tend to be influenced by female friends or relatives to commit acts of violence-- not just male friends/lovers/husbands. This is also a new contribution to our understanding of women extremist offenders.  Did the data provide information, or can you speculate about, why these trends are occurring?  

The use of a gendered lens with which to understand pathways to homegrown radicalization sheds light on the important nuances of inter-personal relationships and social networks that have not been counted so centrally in previous terrorism studies. An inter-disciplinary approach to the study of women in terrorism points out the importance of mediating social networks on creating opportunities for motivated perpetrators.

However, there were differences by ideology and crime type and this is reflected in the social networks that enabled women to participate in either far-right extremist crimes (homicides) or eco-terrorist crimes (arsons and bombings). Similar to male terrorists, females are affected by group-level effects such as the structure of the group and methods of operation. For example, we observe that several of the victims of far-right extremists in the United States were killed not as a result of ideological forethought but more as “presented opportunities,” the unintended casualties of unstructured time by aimless youth. Several of the far-right females were homeless and on the street (four, all non-extremists). This lends evidence to view homeless females as more vulnerable to being co-opted into violent crimes although they do not believe in the ideology. Five out of 14 of the extremist perpetrators were involved in inter-gang violence or racial homicides to earn prestige within the gang. This makes the case of ideologically motivated females interesting because it might more closely approximate patterns for gang involvement. 

Of the three eco-terrorist bombings, one woman was involved with three other men and all were students at the same university, and the other two women involved in a separate incident were sisters. All three women involved with bombings had male accomplices and were ideologically motivated. Of the eco-terrorist arson incidents, seven women were repeat offenders, and five were involved in multiple offenses together. Women were not lone-wolf arsonists, and where multiple offenses occurred, there tended to be more than one female involved. So again, the story of relationships is important although it is unclear how these relationships were forged except for 

 

 

 

common interest activity groups on campus or as relatives of activists.

The data also shows that anti-abortion terrorists are overwhelmingly male.  What do you think this finding brings to frameworks for feminist criminology?

Interestingly, there were no anti-abortion victims or targets where women were involved, as opposed to various incidents where men were perpetrators of anti-abortion violent crime. We know that social relationships were essential to female involvement, and it is interesting that we found three mothers who were extremists and two other women who were expectant mothers at the time of the incident. It is possible that gender and social networks trump violent action against anti-abortion ideology so that we do not see women participate in these crimes. However, further research should continue to analyze the pathways for men who get involved in radical action in anti-abortion terrorist crimes because their involvement is just as important to understanding the lack of female involvement.

What is the connection between terrorism by definition having an ideological component, and the article’s assertion that religion did not seem to be a major factor in women’s involvement?  

Although religious ideology can be conflated with other powerful ideological beliefs, in this study, we isolate terrorist ideology from religious identity and belief. This methodological choice is data-driven. Of the female terrorists who engage homegrown terrorism in the United States, there were no open-source data available on their religious beliefs or affiliation. In addition, the women’s far-right and eco-terrorist ideologies did not access religious arguments for their political agendas when justifying their violence. Of course, it is possible for terrorist ideology to act as a substitute for religion for terrorists, but again, we find no data to support this theory.

What else can or has the ECDB been used to analyze?  

There have been many recent publications using ECDB data by my co-authors Joshua Freilich and Steven Chermak, including one in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. The findings from ECDB data have been pathbreaking regarding the composition, methods, and reach of homegrown terrorism in the United States. However, this was the first publication using ECDB data with a focus on gender. 

What else are you working on these days? 

I have been continuing my research on gender, politics, religion, and deviance. I have a forthcoming article on the study of “Irreligiosity as Social Deviance in a Majority Muslim Context” for the journal Deviant Behavior which again analyzes the influence of gender and ideology on crime and social deviance.

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Dr. Alessandra L. González is a Non-Resident Research Fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. She received her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from Baylor University and received a B.A. in Sociology and Policy Studies from Rice University. She is the principal investigator of the Islamic Social Attitudes Survey Project (ISAS), a study in conjunction with Baylor’s Institute for Studies in Religion (ISR) on Islamic religiosity and social attitudes, including attitudes about women’s rights in the Arab Gulf region. Her latest book is Islamic Feminism in Kuwait: The Politics and Paradoxes (Palgrave Macmillan Press).

Historic Climate March Headcount Was 400,000

Staci Strobl

In an unprecedented display of people power, 400,000 individuals marched in New York City on Sunday at the People's Climate March to send a message to the United Nations that the time has come for international cooperation on significant reductions in carbon emissions.  Framed as a social justice issue, the "stop climate change" environmental movement effective allied with labor unions, church groups, and others in a historic demonstration.  Crimcast offers a small gallery of pictures from the march below.


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Crimes Against Flounder and the "End of Fish"

Nickie Phillips

Staci Strobl, Crimcast co-founder

photo: Brian Switek

Last night I enjoyed a delicious meal of local flounder at B. Smith's in midtown Manhattan.  Unfortunately, due to illegal over-fishing, this flounder may have been in-bred in its small sub-population off the southern coast of Long Island and more of an endangered species than I had thought.

Overfishing happens when fish are caught faster than they can reproduce, often the result of the market demand for seafood, poor management of fisheries and destructive fishing techniques. If unaddressed, it can threaten marine ecosystems and imperil the availability of fish for people whose diet depends on it.  Once populations of fish get too small, they in-breed and are susceptible to diseases which can wipe out the population for good.  According to the Save Our Seas Foundation, one in five people in the world depend on fish as their main source of protein.

Under federal regulations, New York fishers can only bring in 7.6% of the total haul of flounder in a given season and each fisher has a particular individual quota per season based on the most recent data of the strength of the fish population.

As a result of the limitations, the number of licensed fishing operations in the state are down approximately 20% over the last decade.  And, many New York fishers are landing their catch in other nearby states where the quotas are higher-- even as the fish almost all end up consumed in the same place-- New York City.  Recently, Senator Chuck Schumer has called for reform of the fishing quotas which he believes are hurting New York fishermen and women.  Indeed, the declining economic viability of fishing in Long Island appears to motivate over-fishers, suggesting that important economic incentives are needed to control this harmful activity.

flounder (talkfish.org)

A recent federal prosecution shows that Long Island commercial fishers are falsifying records in order to over-fish for greater profit.  At least one of them has been held accountable.  Charles Wertz, head of C&C Ocean Fisheries, under-reported approxim

ately 80,000 pounds of fluke (summer flounder) that he over-fished between 2009 and 2011, earning an extra $200,000.  In an agreement with prosecutors, the

fisherman will lose his fishing licenses and pay over $500,000 in fines.

This enforcement activity is good news for scientists who warn we may be facing the apocalyptic "end of fish."  A 2006 study projected that fish and seafood populations will collapse by 2048.  Lead scientist on the study Boris Worm explained:

At this point, 29 percent of fish and seafood species [worldwide] have collapsed -- that is their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear trend, and it is accelerating... The good news is that it is not too late to turn things around.. [With areas of marine protection we] see that diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem's productivity and stability.

Protecting fish populations through specifically regulated ocean spaces is a key part of the equation of preventing the fish apocalypse, also known as the aquacalypse, as well as working with the fishing industry to make under-fishing profitable.   For criminal justice policy makers, however, the most helpful role to play is to demand the enforcement of federal and state over-fishing laws and to make sure national laws support the United Nations' Fisheries & Aquaculture Department Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.

Crimes against fish are crimes against a humanity who needs fish protein.  But for those who don't require anthropocentric rationales, it is a matter of co-existing with other life forms on an increasingly environmentally-threatened planet.  Humans wiping out an entire form of life, consisting of multiple species who have done nothing but swim gracefully in our vast ocean waters, seems morally indefensible to me as well.

Environmental Justice at Stake in Canadian Provincial Election

Nickie Phillips

Sierra Club of Canada

Crimcast caught up with environmental activist John Wimberly who alerted us to an upcoming critical vote for the anti-fracking movement in Nova Scotia, Canada. As the documentaries Gasland and Gasland II have shown, regular people's access to fresh, clean water and unspoiled natural spaces have been threatened in U.S. states like Pennsylvania and North Dakota where corporate interests have been making big money off a risky form of extracting natural gas from deep underground in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Recent protests in England flared up at the prospect of fracking companies operating there for the first time. Canadians are wrestling with the same problem-- is short-term profit worth risking a natural habitat in the long-term? As John Wimberly explains:

Preventing fracking is tremendously important, especially in a small province like Nova Scotia. We have varied geology and nowhere to retreat if we experience a worst-case scenario event, like a spill of waste-water or a polluted water table. As such, many citizens have been pushing for a ban or moratorium on the practice of hydraulic fracturing.

Unfortunately, a legislated moratorium or ban does not have any guarantee of stopping it from happening. These laws are made by the provincial government and can be removed by the provincial government if it so suits its interests. The only way to prevent fracking is by having a provincial government that is committed to the same goal.

NS fracking

With a provincial election nearing its final week, this is where I point out who the best option will be. It’s the New Democratic Party (NDP), the current provincial government and Canada’s foremost left-leaning political party. By a long-shot. No fracking is going on in Nova Scotia because they created a moratorium. They’ve also initiated two studies into fracking on the environmental and human health impacts. Beyond treating fracking as a public relations issue, it fits in line with their environmental policy: banning uranium mining, hugely increasing the amount of protected lands in Nova Scotia, and moving us toward renewable energy. This is all in stark contrast to the alternative, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, who – if the polls are any indication – are likely to form the next government.

The Liberals are directly misinforming Nova Scotians in their platform by claiming they were the ones who initiated a moratorium that the NDP opposed. On fracking, they’re even lying in their platform. Their leader, Stephen McNeil, opposed the NDP’s expansion of protected land, suggesting that what we needed was a “moratorium on protecting land.” McNeil and the mining industry were the only ones opposed to this protection – and now he might be the next premier.

Of the greatest concern is the Liberal plan for U.S.-style deregulation of Nova Scotia Power. While there is certainly support for his broadly-stated call to “break the monopoly” of Nova Scotia Power, there are obvious consequences that directly undermine the interests of Nova Scotians – especially those concerned about environmental issues, fossil fuel use, and our contributions toward climate change. The Liberal plan to deregulate would remove our ability to continue to mandate a switch to renewable energy – which is both an environmental and fiscal issue for our province, as the cost of the coal we’re currently using is quickly increasing.

Infographic by Lucy Kim

And who makes up each party? The NDP, while not delivering a perfect environmental record, have environmentalists as a core-constituency and they occupy the highest levels of the party. They have also spent the vast majority of their political capital on switching to renewable energy – popular for being clean, green, and providing stable rates, but very unpopular for being more expensive than the coal we burn now.

The Liberals candidates and record is deeply troubling. One of their Halifax candidates declared that Nova Scotia should become a world innovation capital for fracking, and that he would pursue “green fracking”, a process that even the most unapologetic oil baron hasn’t suggested as ‘something that exists.’ In rural Nova Scotia, they have a candidate who has promised to bring liquid natural gas ports to the coastal community for trans-Atlantic shipping. Poorly thought-out plans like “the free-market will solve the problem” U.S.-style deregulation, combined with candidates that seem squarely opposed to moving away from fossil fuels, leads me to believe that the right decision for voters is clear-- go with the NDP.

The NDP have been far from perfect, and they have, especially recently, been very open about that. They didn’t live up to the expectations many of us had for them. But they remain the best choice for Nova Scotians, especially those concerned about environmental issues.

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John Wimberly is a social, political, and environmental activist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He works for the NDP and also as a freelance writer. He is a regular contributor to Crimcast.