Crime Pays: Terrorist Group Engagement in Crime and Survival

James A. Piazza, Scott Piazza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


What impact does engagement in crime have on terrorist group survival? In theory criminal activity may decrease group survival by damaging group legitimacy or prompting government crackdowns. Conversely, crime might boost group survival by facilitating access to revenues or by further taxing state policing capacity. Moreover, different types of crime might have different effects. We investigate the impact of crime on terrorist group survival using cross-sectional data on 578 terrorist groups observed between 1970 and 2007. We find that engagement in crime reduces a group’s chance of demise by around 50% and extends its lifespan by around 7 years on average. Terrorist groups involved in narcotics are less likely to end by police or military force, but are also less likely to win political concessions. We find that groups involved in extortion live the longest and are also less likely to end by force or by splintering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-723
Number of pages23
JournalTerrorism and Political Violence
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 18 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Safety Research
  • Political Science and International Relations


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