Established in 2002, the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups (ISVG) is presently located at the University of New Haven in West Haven, Connecticut – where it has gained considerable international notoriety. The brainchild of Dr. Richard Ward, its original formation occurred at Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, Texas, where Dr. Ward served as the Vice-President for Research and Special Programs and the Dean of the Criminal Justice Center. A noted expert on terrorism, organized crime, and international corruption, he had previously spent 27 years at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he implemented the Office of International Criminal Justice for the study of comparative concerns in transnational crime. Through a grant provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the United States Department of Justice, the inception of ISVG revolved around the hope to research and identify the inclinations, connections and tactics of international terrorist groups through a “relational database” available to the public. As an open source research center, the ultimate goal of the data collection is to collaboratively augment the overall knowledge of radical violent extremism and global crimes – thereby empowering ISVG to “create analytic products that incorporate geospatial visualizations, link associations, temporal outlines, statistical dashboards, and social network analysis.”
Dr. Ward transferred ISVG to its new home at the University of New Haven in 2008 and initiated the first dissemination of the database results, which took the name of the Violent Extremism Knowledge Base (VKB) in 2011. The ISVG database is organized with the purpose of capturing and recording 1,500 diverse variables associated with groups, individuals, and events that are linked with radical violent crime and extremism around the globe. After 10 years of diligent research, the database now contains over 223,000 incidents that have involved about 43,000 individuals – with links to about 3,000 different organizations. ISVG communicates this information through “advanced visualization and analytic products,” with the intention of aiding those that are empowered to make important decisions on terrorism and global crime.
The research of ISVG focuses on geographic regions, the movements of radically violent groups, and specific events that involve terrorism or transnational criminality. The reporting of this information involves charts, geo-referenced data in the form of maps, and statistical timelines that reveal activity over identified periods of time. The ISVG website describes this form of data amalgamation in the following manner:
Link and network association charts – provide insights into a region such as discovering connections between actors, the existence of new groups, the dissolution of known alliances, and shared participation in attacks.
Event data is geospatially enabled – georeferencing allows information to be used in visualizations that can uncover new hot spots of activity, trends in attack locations, and the growth of violence across regions over time. Data can also be imported into existing geospatial environments as dynamic data layers.
Information is temporally tagged – data to be exported and used to create detailed timelines of activity, statistical graphs that are used to expose trends over time, and to examine the activity levels within a region over periods of time.
The research of ISVG involves manually sifting through information gained from web sites, journals that are available online, social media, governmental publications, and other traditional open source media that is accessible worldwide. Highly competent researchers, fluent in a multiplicity of languages, merge the compiled data into analytic visualizations for presentation to the public and specific “clients” positioned within governmental organization and interagency homeland security. ISVG prides itself on a “three-tiered quality control process,” dedicated to “transparency, accuracy, and accountability from the researchers, database content, and analytic products.” Data acquisition and synthesis are an ongoing concern of ISVG projects located across the United States, involving interaction with multiple government and private agencies vested in the maintenance of national security. The website for ISVG offers a search function by which any interested person can review the profiles of violent radical groups – by geographic region, significant acts of crime and terror, or notable personages. Likewise, the ISVG blog offers interesting and frequent “links of the day” pulled from “hundreds of open-source news and intelligence articles from around the globe.” Visitors to the website can also access colorful and informative visualizations that offer interactive features by clicking on “data points” within the graphic.
The existence and easy availability of ISVG is an obvious indication that violent extremism has become a global problem of vital concern. Although terrorism is not a newcomer to the history of civilization, recent advancements in technology have made it a menace that must be tracked more carefully than in past centuries. The events of 911 are an obvious indication of this fact, involving aviation, cell phones, international crime, transnational financing, and subsequent mass destruction. ISVG offers the advancement in sophistication required to meet these threats, which in time could involve extremist groups capable of venting nuclear destruction on large metropolitan areas. Proactive measures such as those offered by ISVG are crucial to meeting this fanaticism head-on and before the fact, rather than suffering an immense tragedy that makes 911 pale in comparison. The video below is offered as additional information for those accessing this article, but we also ask that you please click on the link below and sign the petition to which this website is dedicated.
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