Enhancing Campus Safety with a Threat Assessment Program

Here are some key concepts recommended by the U.S. Secret Services that organizations can adopt when they respond to individuals exhibiting concerning behavior.

The U.S. Secret Service protects high profile individuals, such as the president and the first family, and the places they live, work and visit. Although ensuring their physical safety is our priority, we also seek to prevent a variety of behaviors that may negatively impact those under our protection or could place others at risk. These actions could include sending harassing emails to members of the first family or attempting to commit suicide at a protected site. To prevent these behaviors, we employ physical security measures, as well as comprehensive threat assessment techniques. This latter approach seeks to identify individuals who might engage in unusual, threatening or inappropriate behaviors; assess the risk that these individuals may pose; and develop management strategies to reduce their risk of engaging in behavior that could be harmful to themselves or others.

Just as we are concerned about preventing harm to those under our protection, hospital, school and college campus officials undertake steps every day to keep their community members and facilities safe.  Although campuses throughout the country may refer to the threat assessment process differently, the goal is the same – to intervene and reduce risks posed to the campus community. Here are some key concepts for you to consider in fostering positive climates and establishing a comprehensive threat assessment program that can enhance the safety and security of your campus.

Foster a Climate of Care and Encourage Reporting
On a daily basis, individuals on American campuses become concerned about their classmates, roommates, students, coworkers, employees, customers and others. These concerns vary along a spectrum. They may arise from observing small changes in someone’s behavior, such as declining grades or tardiness at work; concerning communications, such as expressions of anger or hopelessness; or noticing more serious interpersonal difficulties, such as bullying or strains on relationships from increasing isolation or conflict. Identifying and reporting these concerns is a responsibility that must be shared among all members of the campus.

Schools, universities and hospitals have created processes that foster a climate in which members of the community feel more comfortable reporting their concerns to appropriate campus personnel. Many campuses have identified and shared with their community members examples of concerning behaviors that could indicate an individual is struggling. They have then advertised where members can go with their concerns. Campus officials have made the assessment process transparent and ensured the community understands that the process is not in place to punish individuals. Instead, it is to connect them to resources and support.

To foster this climate of care at your campus and encourage community members to report their concerns, you may consider creating an online presence through your campus websites, social media and mobile apps to inform campus members about what to do when they are concerned about an individual, the types of support systems that are offered on campus and the process used to connect individuals to resources. Ensuring that everyone feels a shared sense of responsibility for the wellbeing of the campus as a whole is an important part of any threat assessment program.

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