Domestic Radicalization to Violent Extremism

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Overview of Domestic Radicalization to Violent Extremism

Countering and preventing violent extremism is a primary concern for state and local law enforcement agencies as well as the federal government. Violent extremists are those who support or commit ideologically motivated violence to further political, social or religious goals. The goal of NIJ’s work on violent extremism is to provide community leaders with evidence-based practices for bolstering resilience and developing communitywide responses that can prevent and mitigate threats posed by violent extremists.

Important questions remain about the nature of violent extremism, but few are as vexing as why and how individuals become violent extremists. This process, often referred to as “radicalization to violent extremism,” is the central focus of NIJ’s research and evaluation efforts addressing violent extremism.

To improve our understanding of radicalization to violent extremism as it occurs in the United States, NIJ supports research aimed at answering several questions:

  • What common threads exist among cases of domestic radicalization to violent extremism?
  • Which models of radicalization to violent extremism explain how the process occurs in the United States, and what can these models tell us about preventing and countering violent extremism?
  • Why do people adopt radical beliefs, and why do some people choose to engage in violence to further those beliefs while others do not?
  • How are U.S. communities responding to radicalization, and what works to prevent violent extremism?

Research and Evaluation Program on Radicalization to Violent Extremism

NIJ has funded research on violent extremism since 2002. Its current research and evaluation efforts addressing domestic radicalization to violent extremism are central to its broader Program on Transnational Issues. Since 2012, NIJ has focused its research investments in this area on developing a better understanding of domestic radicalization to violent extremism and advancing evidence-based strategies for effective intervention and prevention of radicalization in the United States.

Program Year 1

In the first year of the program, NIJ focused its call for research proposals on four areas of interest:

  • Empirical evaluation of social science theories of domestic radicalization
  • Examination of the radicalization process for individuals, including “lone wolf” extremists
  • Comparative analysis of violent extremists, organized criminals, gangs, hate groups and/or cults
  • Influence of community-level and policing strategies on domestic radicalization

After a competitive review process, NIJ awarded six grants and one evaluation contract. Read abstracts and see award details for these projects.

Program Year 2

In the second year of the program, NIJ undertook a coordinated effort to bring together stakeholders and demonstrate the importance of the research. The effort culminated in a meeting of grantees and key stakeholders from federal, state and local criminal justice agencies.

The research and evaluation goals were expanded to include six research grants targeting new questions that were brought to the table. NIJ identified the following areas of interest for year 2 proposals:

  • Comparative analysis of individual violent extremists, mass casualty perpetrators, gang members, hate group members and/or organized criminals
  • Online radicalization to violent extremism
  • Evaluations of promising practices
  • The relationship between and convergence of organized crime and either violent extremist groups or transnational gangs

After a competitive review process, NIJ awarded six grants. Read abstracts and see award details for these projects.

Program Year 3

Year 3 of the program has focused on the dissemination of early results. NIJ hosted practitioners, including representatives from U.S. Attorneys' Offices, other federal agencies, state and local law enforcement agencies, and international partners, at a program update meeting in June 2014. The meeting provided a chance for the first-year grantees to present their initial findings and for the second-year grantees to introduce their new projects.

After a competitive review process, NIJ awarded grants for six research projects in 2014. Read abstracts and see award details for these projects.

Other Resources on Preventing Violent Extremism

Read an explanation of the National Strategy for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (pdf, 23 pages).

Read the Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (pdf, 23 pages)

Date Created: July 7, 2014