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Threat Assessment: An Approach To Prevent Targeted Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
Bryan Vossekuil, Gwen A. Holden, Robert A. Fein, Ph.D.
Publication Series
NIJ Research in Action
This paper suggests a strategy for assessing the threat of targeted violence and preventing it.
Threats of violence arise from feelings or ideas that range from the mean-spirited to the messianic. Sometimes a threat is backed by the will and capacity to do harm; at other times, a voiced threat may be nothing but emotional "venting." Perpetrators of violence often have a traceable history of problems, conflicts, disputes, and failures. Violent behavior may be triggered by these individuals' perception that it provides a means to rectify or avenge an injustice or wrongdoing. The first component of threat-assessment case-management involves the development of a plan that moves the subject away from the perspective that violence is a viable option. Information about a subject's coping ability during periods of great stress, including any contemplated or attempted violence against others or self, is of special interest in a threat assessment investigation. Interviews of subjects should be considered part of the investigation's overall strategy. The target in a threat assessment case should be evaluated in terms of vulnerability to attack, job and personal lifestyle, fear of the subject, and degree of sophistication regarding the need for caution. Documentation of data and consultation with experts are key components in implementing a case-management strategy. A case can be considered for closing when the subject is deemed no longer to be a threat. 3 notes
Date Created: July 10, 2000