Changing Patterns of Violence Pose New Challenges to Public Surface Transportation in the United States

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Changing Patterns of Violence Pose New Challenges to Public Surface Transportation in the United States


What new trends in attacks against public surface transportation can be detected in Economically Advanced Countries? 

To answer this question, the authors customized the MTI database, sorting it into nine 2-year periods between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2022, looking specifically at attacks against passenger train and train stations, passenger bus and bus stations and stops, rail infrastructure and operating and security personnel.  This report is the result of that analysis; and will be followed by a report on non-economically advanced countries.  They looked at these economically advanced countries for the frequency and lethality of attack by region, country, target groups, attacker groups, attack methods, both statically and over time – and a combination of the last three.  They examined the data in terms of all attacks and then, to mitigate the problem of reporting bias, only looked at attacks with fatalities.

This MTI Report explains the data set, the methodology and then the key results.  The authors point out that the rate of attacks in developed countries is going up, and the rate in developing countries is going down.  They present a related finding - that planned, and organized terrorist attacks in the developed countries is going down, and random violence by criminals and individuals with no apparent political objective is going up.   And, also, that the United States is now leading in terms of overall attacks and fatal attacks in the developed countries, which is a startling new development. A set of focused graphs and charts on the United States are presented.

Other notable findings are that the previous trend of attacks prevented in these countries – which was going up, has suffered a downturn – which may be temporary.  At the same time, they note that the percentage of attacks in which explosive devices were used that were successful – in that the device detonated on target or on time – has been dropping while those discovered by authorities or that failed to work properly are going up.

The authors call for a more concentrated examination, including data analysis, of random, “anti-social” violence in public surface transport, and the development of new strategies to deal with this surge. 


Brian Michael Jenkins is the director of the Mineta Transportation Institute’s Allied Telesis National Transportation Security Center and, since 1997, has directed the Institute’s continuing research on protecting surface transportation against terrorism and other serious forms of crime.

Bruce R. Butterworth is a Senior Transportation Security Researcher at MTI and former Director of Aviation Security Operations at the Federal Aviation Administration. Bruce has taken a leading role in creating MTI’s unique database of attacks on public surface transportation.

August 2022
Safety and security
Railroad transportation



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