About the project

Policy Recommendations and Improved Communication Tools for Law Enforcement and Security Agencies Preventing Violent Radicalisation (PERICLES)

Background

Between 2014 and 2018, 171 terrorist attacks took place in Germany, causing 26 deaths and 190 wounded people. Due to these figures, it is understandable that the topic of radicalization has experienced a considerable boom in social science research in the last years. In recent times, scientific interest has especially focused on the significance of extremist propaganda on the Internet and the importance of social media.

Between 2017 and 2020, the European Commission funded the research network Policy Recommendations and Improved Communication Tools for Law Enforcement and Security Agencies Preventing Violent Radicalisation (PERICLES). The network with 16 full partners from eight countries investigated current practice in the prevention of violent radicalization in an European comparison and developed measures and recommendations to optimize prevention work. The network was initially coordinated by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony and later by the Chair of Security Management at Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences.

Project structure

The project was structured in eight work packages. Work package one provided a workup of exiting counter-radicalization policies and prevention programmes in selected European countries. Work package two conducted a needs assessment survey to assess the needs of law enforcement agencies in the context of counter-radicalization. The interaction between counter-radicalisation actors was modelled in work package three. In work package four, five prevention tools targeting special aspects of counter-radicalisation have been developed. Work package five provided a validation of the five PERICLES tools. Supervision of ethics, law and security was provided in work package six. Work package seven provided communication and dissemination activities. The coordination of the network was a task of work package eight.

Video outlining the results of the project

Extract from the results: Low level terrorism and mental illness

An evaluation of attacks in Germany has shown that the modus operandi of religious motivated attacks has changed. While in the past such attacks were often elaborately planned and prepared, since 2014 most attacks can be attributed to so-called low-level terrorism. Security organizations have problems to avoid these kind of attacks because individual perpetrators often contacted extremist networks only shortly before the attack and they used axes, knives, or vehicles. The availability of such devices can hardly be limited. Moreover, the results show that the perpetrators (in a long-term view) become younger. While the average age in 2002 according to Marc Sageman's count was 26 years, it is now about 20 years. In addition, there are increasing signs that mental illness should be integrated more often into prevention work. The attack on the A100 in Berlin in August 2020 once again confirms this assessment.

Extract from the results: Lack of scientific evaluation in the field of prevention

An evaluation of prevention projects and programs in European countries showed that many initiatives preventing radicalization were launched in response to attacks but without any scientific basis. Accordingly, many (but not all) initiatives do not show evidence of meaningful impact. In addition, it can be observed that prevention directed against radicalization processes has become the business of consultants, coaches and other independent actors who (must) also pursue economic interests. Only among few projects and programs scientific evaluation could be found. This is worrying because known from crime prevention the effects of prevention work (how well-intentioned it may be) cannot be assessed without evaluation and could even have negative consequences. In addition, the lack of evaluation suggests that (mostly public) funds used to promote such initiatives are not used efficiently.  

Network meeting in The Hague