12 Times ‘See Something, Say Something’ Saved Lives

These instances include threats from a mother, a military veteran and students of all ages, emphasizing there is no one profile of a potential mass shooter.
Published: March 11, 2024

Editor’s note: This article, originally published on Dec. 30, 2019, has been updated to include new research and additional “see something, say something” success stories.

“If you see something, say something” gained traction in the United States following the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to New York Magazine, Allen Kay, the chairman of ad agency Korey Kay & Partners, came up with the phrase for the Metropolitan Transit Authority on Sep. 12, 2001, as he “wanted to help prevent another disaster and to do something positive in the aftermath of the attacks.”

Every year since, follow-through on the country’s unofficial security slogan has thwarted potentially devastating, violent incidents.

Campus Safety previously posted “10 ‘See Something, Say Something’ Success Stories.” In that article, we referenced a study on averted school shootings that found more than half (29 out of 51) of the active shooter plots were discovered by the shooters’ peers. Another study by the Secret Service looked at 41 incidents of targeted school violence in K-12 schools and found all attackers exhibited concerning behavior, and 80% elicited concern from others. In addition, 66% communicated their intended attack to someone else.

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It’s important to note that while “see something, say something” was created with violence prevention in mind, the majority of anonymous tips submitted on school campuses oftentimes pertain to student mental health and self-harm.

A recent study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at data from the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, operated by the violence prevention group Sandy Hook Promise. While reviewing tips submitted from 2019 to 2023 in one southeastern state, the researchers found the anonymous reporting system “enabled 1,039 confirmed mental health interventions; 109 ‘saves’ where clear evidence of imminent suicide crisis was present and averted; prevented 38 acts of school violence including weapons recovered on school grounds; and averted 6 confirmed planned school attacks,” according to the report.

Slideshow: 12 Times ‘See Something, Say Something’ Saved Lives

These continued findings further support the importance of reporting any concerning behavior no matter how insignificant it may seem, which is why we’ve compiled 12 more instances (although there are hundreds out there) where seeing something and saying something likely saved lives.

The Secret Service’s study also found there is no profile of a student attacker. Although those findings specifically apply to school shootings, the examples provided here mirror those findings. The would-be perpetrators include a mother, a military veteran, middle schoolers, and high schoolers.

While most of the events in this slideshow pertain to K-12 schools or universities, we have provided a few from other campuses to emphasize the importance of reporting suspicious behavior anywhere you go.

Another common phrase, “If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t,” is also applicable in these instances. Trust your instinct. Your life and the lives of those around you may depend on it.

Before you go, here’s a similar article from Campus Safety, “7 Times ‘See Something, Say Something’ Stopped Potential Tragedies in 2021“. 

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Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series
Strategy & Planning Series