If you suspect something, say something.
That’s the bottom line from the annual Mass Attacks in Public Spaces Reports released last week by the Secret Service.
Prepared by the National Threat Assessment Center, the report looks at 27 mass attacks in 2018. That includes the May 18, 2018, shooting at Santa Fe High School that left 10 dead and 13 injured.
According to the information released in the report, 93 percent of the perpetrators in the attacks had issued threats or other concerning communications before the attacks. Most of the attackers, 78 percent, exhibited some sort of behavior that caused concern for their friends and families.
Those behaviors included:
• Social media posts with alarming content
• Escalating anger or aggressive behavior
• Changes in behavior and appearance
• Expressions of suicidal ideations
• Writing about violence or weapons
• Cutting off communications
• Inappropriate behavior toward females
• Stalking and harassing behaviors
• Increased depression
• Increased drug use
• Erratic behavior
• Threats of domestic violence
• Acting paranoid
“For the majority of the attackers (70 percent), the concern others felt was so severe that they feared specifically for the safety of the individual, themselves or others. Some of those concerned for their own safety acted on that fear by filing for divorce, ceasing communications, filing for restraining or protection orders, asking loved ones to stay with them out of fear, changing their daily routines, moving, or warning their own family and friends about their concerns. In one case, a person shared photos of the attacker so that others could remain alert and call the police if needed,” the report read.
The study looked at 27 incidents where three or more people were harmed. In all, 91 people were killed and 107 injured in the attacks. Most of the attackers — 24 — used firearms in their assaults, with the remaining three using vehicles. Most of the attacks took place in businesses with three in schools and one in a church.
The attackers varied in age from 15 to 64 and the average age was 37. Half of the attackers had previous legal issues.
Another issue that tied most of the perpetrators together was struggles with mental health. Two-thirds exhibited symptoms of mental health problems before the attacks. Nearly half had been treated for mental health issues.
More than half the attackers committed their crimes due to grievances, most of them personally related to work or relationships. In about half the cases, the attacker targeted a specific victim.
Almost all the attackers had a significant stressor within the last five years, many related to relationships, work or school. Over half had financial issues.
The authors of the report made several suggestions after reviewing the public data.
First, more mental health resources are needed. While mental health issues are not reported in the majority of violent crimes, the vast majority of those who perpetrate mass attacks have mental health problems.
Second, report those you may suspect who are having issues.
Once a report is made, the study says law enforcement and others must act.
“At that point, the responsibility is on the public safety professionals to “Do Something,” namely assessing the situation and managing as needed. By adopting a multidisciplinary threat assessment approach, that standardizes the process for identifying, assessing, and managing individuals who may pose a risk of violence, law enforcement and others are taking steps to ensure that those individuals who have elicited concern do not ‘fall through the cracks,’” the report concludes.