CINCINNATI - You might be surprised to hear that Hamilton County earned the dubious distinction as a “Hot Spot of Terrorism” between 1970 and 2008.
That’s the conclusion of a controversial new report from START, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
It’s a division of Homeland Security, Science and Technology, Human Factors/Behavioral Sciences Division housed at the University of Maryland.
Co-author Gary LaFree said the report was based on information gathered from open sources to build an objective terrorism database.
“Clearly, your county has a very different footprint than a lot of other places in the country,” he said.
Hamilton County earned a “Hot Spot of Terrorism” label because 10 incidents were identified as “terrorism” in the 37-year time span. That was above the national mean of four incidents for single-issue, ideologically motivated acts.
However, Hamilton County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Snowden immediately took issue with the findings.
“To say that we’re a hot spot because of events that happened that many years ago is not very fair to our region,” he said. “I don’t agree when you look at terrorism in today’s terms.”
Terrorism expert Ed Bridgeman likened the report to someone crying “wolf.”
“When people see this sort of thing, they think it must be terrible here,” he said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth especially in this area.”
Seven of the 10 Hamilton County cases cited involved women’s health clinics, one was tied to a serial killer, one was an attempted firebombing and one was a bombing that damaged utility equipment.
1) March 3, 1970
--A bomb is detonated at a Cincinnati Gas & Electric booster station in Lockland, causing extensive equipment damage.
2) November 1, 1977
--A fire is set at the Cincinnati Planned Parenthood Clinic housed at Christ Church, causing $4,000 in damage.
3) February 1, 1978
--A chemical bomb is thrown into the Women for Women Clinic in Cincinnati, causing $3,000 in damage. The clinic is shut down for nine days and three other Ohio abortion clinics are attacked within a two-month period.
4) June 8, 1980
--Avowed racist Joseph Paul Franklin shoots and kills two African-American teenage cousins – Darrell Lane and
Donte Evans Brown -- as they walk along Reading Road in Bond Hill. Franklin said he was on an overpass looking to shoot an inter-racial couple, but became so impatient that he decided to shoot the young men. He is convicted of the murders on October 21, 1988, and is later charged with with shooting Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and civil rights leader Vernon Jordan.
5) December 30, 1985
--A fire is set in the basement of the Margaret Sanger Center of Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue in Mount Auburn. Damage is listed at $75,000, but the building is torn down and a new structure built. John Brockhoeft is convicted in the case.
6) December 30, 1985
--A fire is set at the Women’s Health Care Center on East McMillan Street in Mount Auburn, causing $250,000 in damage. John Brockhoeft is indicted in the case, but the charge is dismissed when he agrees to a plea deal in the Sanger Center case.
7) February 23, 1987
--A pipe bomb is placed outside the temporary offices of the
Margaret Sanger Center, but is discovered and removed before it detonates. John Brockhoeft is indicted in the case, but the charge is dismissed when he agrees to a plea deal in the Sanger Center case,
8) March 30, 1984
--An incendiary device is placed at the offices of the Cincinnati Herald Newspaper, but it is discovered before it detonates.
9) January 3, 2000
--A bomb is placed in a package sent to the Cincinnati Planned Parenthood Clinic, but it is discovered and disarmed.
10) January 3, 2000
--A bomb is placed in a package and sent to an abortion clinic in Cincinnati, but it is discovered and disarmed.
LaFree defended the study and its Hamilton County conclusion.
“We’re trying to lay out the data in the most objective way we can,” he said. “Whether you think nine or 10 incidents is a lot, you’ll have to judge for yourself. I would say it’s more than many other counties in the database have.”
The report identified 2,600 terrorism incidents in the United States between 1970 and 2008 with 65 of the nation’s 3,143 counties being termed “hot spots.”
“We started with the definition of terrorism that essentially is violence or the threat of violence for a political purpose engaged in by non-state actors – someone other than the government,” LaFree said.
A total of 30 percent of the cases were reported in New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
LaFree said data was collected from major newspapers, major studies by organizations and government reports, but not police data.
“There aren’t any great alternatives for studying terrorism,” he added.
Notably lacking in the report is the December, 2005, bombing of the Islamic Mosque in Clifton
“It’s a place that’s