Campus Violence: Is it reactive anger or deliberate planning?
Learn how to spot the warning signs before it becomes a tragedy.
We hear about school shootings far too often in the media and in many cases, it could have been prevented in some way. Also known as targeted violence, these acts of violence are planned, emotionless, and predatory — but potentially preventable, as it often follows a series, or “path” of detectable warning signs.
The term pathway to violence originated with the U.S. Secret Service back in the 1980s. There have been four presidential assassinations since the founding of the United States, almost 250 years ago, yet threats are made almost daily. Assassinations are rare and cannot be predicted with any certainty — in fact, attempting to predict such planned violence always results in too many false positives. The Secret Service needed another model, and the one they adopted was a prevention model — they called it “protective intelligence.”
Protective intelligence is premised on the fact that virtually all assassinations and attacks on public figures in the US were deliberately planned, and not the result of impulse. They also discovered some other interesting facts:
- None of these individuals directly warned their target beforehand
- Most of them researched, planned, and prepared for their act
- Most of them told a third party of their intent.
If we segue from the history of targeted violence to the threat of violence on campuses, there is another curious finding: While most campus violence is reactive and unplanned, instances of targeted, planned violence is by far the most dangerous.
Campus security is increasingly faced with threats that target staff, students and the institute as a whole. Threats of targeted violence can come in many different forms, from an angry post on social media, a hostile email, stalking or even a physical altercation.
The greatest challenge is knowing which threats pose a real risk of violence, without causing fear or upset. What are the red flags to look for? What is the best way to respond?
The answer is to use a prevention model that combines professional judgement with a methodology backed by scientific research — also known as a Structured Professional Judgement (SPJ) guide. The WAVR-21 (Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk) is the mostly widely used structured professional guide used to identify, assess, and manage targeted violence in workplace and campus contexts. It identifies 21 “warning signs” that indicate whether a subject is plotting an act of violence.
The WAVR-21 is now available in app form, and this powerful tool helps campus security and threat assessment teams collaborate, collect evidence, share critical information and follow a structured, consistent process when assessing and responding to threats of violence.
Click here to discover how the WAVR-21 Threat Assessment app can help you keep your school and students safe from targeted violence.