Sample Criminal Justice Essay Paper on Terrorism and Criminal Activity


The attacks on the world trade center on 11 September 20011 known all over the world as 9/11, marketed a change in global history. The attack estimated to have taken away the souls of over 3000 individuals made it the worst terrorist incident in the history of humanity. Since 9/11 have been a significant increase in terrorist-related incidences. During this period, terrorism has become synonymous with death and distraction; subsequently, there has been a discussion labeling terror acts as criminal activities unlike the past when such actions were consider a crime only if they went against the laws of the land. 


For decades before the 21st century, terrorist acts were not outright criminal acts. As cited by Makarenko a terror act that infringes an individual’s legislative assigned right then it is considered a crime (12). However, as times have moved on, the face of terrorism has changed and most if not all terrorist, acts are criminal in nature (13).

Figure 1.The Number of Terrorism- related Activities since 1970 to 2016


Figure one above is a graphical representation of the number of terror-related activities from 1970 to 2016. It is evident that there is a significant increase from 2008. According to Goode and Ben-Yehuda this is a result of the social construct on terrorism and criminal activity (112).  

Currently, there is no universally agreed upon definition of terrorism; however as indicated by Bruce there exist a ‘most universally accepted definition which is the use of violence to cause fear for either political, religious or other ideological reasons (162). According to Arnold, Jeffrey L., et al, most terror acts today are aimed at the noncombatant groups (civilians) with the objective of to achieve the most publicity for a particular group, case, or individual (72). The structure of terrorism is socially constructed. According to Bruce terrorism is dissimilar from murder, assault, arson, demolition of property, or threat of the same this is because the impact of terrorist violence, as well as damage, reach the target indirectly in many cases a government or armed forces (12). Additionally, it is targeted to a target that has a large spectrum of the society.

Social Comprehension of Terrorism and criminal activity

Terrorism is dissimilar to regular crime due to its powerful objectives.’ Jeffrey L., et al, indicate that objectives are desired so desperately that the inability to achieve the set goals holds more consequence than the death of civilians. Consequently, terrorist acts are considered both mala prohibita act as well as mala in se acts. (75) Mala prohibita acts are made illegal by the legislation. When an individual or a group of ideologists cause property instruction or kill then due to the laws of the land the responsible party is considered a criminal. On the other hand, the society also considered death (murder) and destruction of property as a vice thus making it a Mala in se acts that are defined as immoral and wrong in themselves.

The psychology of terrorism and criminal activity

As aforementioned criminal activity and terrorism are not similar through both through the legal as well as the social construct. Additionally, as cited by Horgan and John the two activities are driven by dissimilar psychological perceptions (32). Terrorism is driven or triggered by prejudices against an ideology (Horgan and John, 33) . For instance, Islamic radical groups such as Al-Qaeda (currently known as ISIS) believe that their rights for self-rule and Islam rights, in general, have been infringed by particular cultures. Such ideologies are misguided and the Islamic faith is misrepresented with fighters or attackers being brainwashed in their doings. On the other hand, most criminal activity is driven by the need get what may be unattainable through legal means particularly wealth.          

Economic comprehension of terrorism and criminal activity

Terrorism and other criminal activity have a negative impact on the economy of an area in a variety of ways. Firstly, the destruction of property just as seen in 9/11 or the current situation in Syria caused by highlighted a significant economic destruction. Terrorism is usually targeted towards crimpling economic infrastructure of a country slowing down day-to-day business activities. For instance; in an effort to prevent a meltdown, the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), as well as the Nasdaq, opted to close trading from September 11 to 17 2001 (Masciandaro 67). However, on the day of trading, the NSE fell by 684 points marking the largest losses in the exchange history regarding one-day trading (Masciandaro, 69). According to Cordes by the end of trading week Friday the trading floors (Dow Jones, Nasdaq, as well as NYSE) had recorded an estimated $1.4 trillion loss in value due to panic sales considering a significant number of both foreign as well as local traders anticipated another major attack on the US (114).

Criminal activity has a negative impact on the economy; however, not in a similar magnitude as terror events. According to Masciandarocriminal activities such as racketeering, theft, murder, looting, as well as the destruction of property such as that experienced in the 1920s and 1930s have a negative impact on investment (82). Additionally, such clandestine business deals have causes losses for the government; for instance, the losses in taxes during the Mob era in the development of Las Vegas in Nevada Masciandaro 85).

In summary, terrorism and criminal activity have a negative influence on the economy of a region; however, terrorism causes significant economic losses in a shorter time than other criminal activities particularly organized crime.   

Security comprehension of terrorism and criminal activity

Terrorism has taken up a different face in the current environment and it has become harder to track; however, law enforcement agencies have devised means of counterterrorism. Currently, there exist two methodologies of counter-terrorism prevention and mitigation. Preventive measures are placed to identify a terror act before it happens while mitigation measures are placed to manage terror attacks after they attack. After the 9/11 attack in New York on the world trade center it became apparent that five of the 19 attackers were known jihadists; however, they failed to be identified during the boarding. Currently, the US, as well as other security personnel globally, share information that includes facial recognition, flagged names, as well as criminal records that would be associated with terrorism. Additionally, airports and other public facilities are fitted with explosive detection gadgets such as x-ray inspection machines.

Nonetheless, in the instance that an individual or a group of people get to bypass set security measures; there exist law enforcement policies that aid in mitigating the crisis such as quick response as well as the establishment of special counter-terrorist task forces that include the bomb squad.    

When analyzing the security issues regarding terrorism and criminal activity there is a clear distinction. Criminal activity such as drug trafficking conducts becomes more profitable with time; subsequently, law enforcement measures take a longer time. On the other hand, terrorism is a targeted practice that causes losses in a short time; thus requiring rapid and efficient counteractions.


In summary, since the turn of the century terrorism acts have grown exponentially additionally, unlike previous time terrorism is currently considered a criminal activity as it goes against legislation as well as social norms. However, despite the similarities, terrorism is a new kind of criminal activity that is based on destruction and death and not self-centered behavior as previously known.

Works Cited

Arnold, Jeffrey L., Per Örtenwall, Marvin L. Birnbaum, Knut Ole Sundnes, Anil Aggrawal, V. Arantharaman, Abdul Wahab Al Musleh et al. “A proposed universal medical and public health definition of terrorism.” Prehospital and disaster medicine 18, no. 2 (2003): 47-52.

Bruce, Gregor. “Definition of terrorism social and political effects.” Journal of Military and Veterans Health 21.2 (2013): 26.

Cordes, Bonnie. “When terrorists do the talking: Reflections on terrorist literature.” Insurgent Terrorism. Routledge, 2017. 63-84.

Goode, Erich, and Nachman Ben-Yehuda. Moral panics: The social construction of deviance. John Wiley & Sons, 2010.

Horgan, John G., and John Horgan. The psychology of terrorism. Routledge, 2004.

Makarenko, Tamara. “The crime-terror continuum: tracing the interplay between transnational organised crime and terrorism.” Global crime 6.1 (2004): 129-145.

Masciandaro, Donato, ed. Global financial crime: terrorism, money laundering and offshore centres. Taylor & Francis, 2017.