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Businesses top Secret Service list of targeted attacks
A five-year study by the Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), analyzed 173 targeted attacks that occurred from 2016 to 2020 in public or semi-public locations including businesses, schools, houses of worship, open spaces, and other locations. Examining attacks during which three or more individuals were injured or killed, it used a unique behavioral analysis to examine mass violence and its perpetrators. Of the 173 attacks, 51 percent (88) were businesses.
Key findings were:
- Most of the attackers had exhibited behavior that elicited concern in family members, co-workers, and others, and in many cases, those individuals feared for the safety of themselves or others. For over one-fifth of the attackers, the behavior or communication was not reported to anyone in a position to respond, demonstrating a continued need to promote and facilitate bystander reporting.
- Many attackers had a history of physically aggressive or intimidating behaviors, evidenced by prior violent criminal arrests/charges, domestic violence, or other acts of violence.
- Half of the attackers were motivated by grievances and were retaliating for perceived wrongs related to personal, domestic, or workplace issues.
- Most of the attackers used firearms, and many of those firearms were possessed illegally.
- One-quarter of the attackers subscribed to a belief system involving conspiracies or hateful ideologies, including anti-government, anti-Semitic, and misogynistic views.
- Many attackers experienced stressful events across various life domains, including family/romantic relationships, personal issues, employment, and legal issues. Some attackers experienced a specific triggering event before perpetrating the attack.
- Over half of the attackers experienced mental health symptoms before or at the time of their attacks, including depression, psychotic symptoms, and suicidal thoughts.
- Encourage and facilitate bystander reporting and be prepared to respond when reports of concern are received.
- Do not wait for a direct and specific threat before acting.
- Individuals displaying an unusual interest in violent topics, especially past attackers, should elicit concern.
- Establish workplace violence prevention plans to identify, assess, and intervene with current employees, former employees, and customers who may pose a risk of violence. Workplaces should establish behavioral threat assessment programs as a component of their workplace violence prevention plans, and businesses should also establish proactive relationships with area law enforcement so that they may work collaboratively to respond to incidents involving a concern for violence, whether that concern arises from a current employee, a former employee, or a customer.
- Develop strategies for resolving interpersonal grievances. By understanding an individual’s motive to perpetrate a violent act, professionals will be better equipped to employ management strategies and resources that will help de-escalate situations involving interpersonal conflicts.
- Government agencies and community organizations should continue directing resources, training, and public messaging toward countering hate and other extremist belief systems that have historically been associated with violence. Misogyny and domestic violence deserve increased attention.
- Encourage the reporting of concerning, threatening, and violent content observed across online platforms.
- Give immediate attention to individuals sharing final communications or engaging in other final acts, such as saying goodbye, transferring home ownership, authoring suicide notes, or posting manifestos online.
- Identify and promote appropriate resources for individuals who are managing stressful life circumstances, experiencing mental health issues, or facing a personal crisis.