Threat Assessments and the Crime Analyst: Cautionary Note

The threat assessment process includes determining whether the person poses a threat, not simply whether he or she makes a threat. The analyst should be aware that most people who threaten violence are not dangerous. This does not mean that a proper threat assessment should not occur; however, there exist limitations to law enforcement professionals’ ability to conduct a legitimate threat assessment. A threat assessment must be conducted by a multidisciplinary team trained in the advanced concepts of behavioral threat assessment and management (Amman et al.,2017).Without the proper training, false positives are likely to occur which could lead to inaccurate assessments and inappropriate interventions that infringe on the civil liberties of the person in question.

The analyst’s role in the threat assessment process generally encompasses data mining that helps a certified threat assessor or a threat assessment team to answer the right questions.The answers to these questions inform determinations of targeted violence risk levels and proper intervention strategies to mitigate risk and manage the person away from the pathway to violence.

An analyst must receive the necessary level of advanced training to understand the risk factors and warning signs associated with targeted violence identified in the literature.

The analyst should remain objective during the data mining process and look for protective factors as well as risk-related factors. Protective factors, also referred to as violence mitigators or inhibitors, include, but are not limited to, those aspects of a persons life that may influence a person away from committing an act of violence. Mitigators are elements that serve as stabilizers for the subject or things that he or she values. Protective factors include healthy trusting relationships, stable work and living arrangements, adequate finances, a positive outlook toward the future, an interest in resolving the grievance using legal means, faith or a social environment that discourages violence, a sense of humor, and mental and emotional health treatment receptivity (Amman et al., 2017). It is important to note that the absence of these stabilizers provides insight as to the mounting stressors or clustered negative life changes (triggers) that increase the risk of targeted violence.


This chapter has indicated that by exploring violent incidents that occur in schools and other locations, we can attempt to address questions that may lead to early detection and an efficient threat assessment policy being developed and implemented in an effort to prevent future tragedies. In order to carry out a threat assessment or to conduct a post-incident evaluation of a violent event, intelligence is necessary. A threat assessment team, if carefully assembled, can share intelligence and analyze threats from various perspectives. A threat assessment approach is a more innovative and advanced approach than the previously used general risk assessment. A threat assessment team approach examines an individual who already has been identified as someone who intends to harm others. This kind of investigation can help to determine whether a serious threat exists and how best to handle it in order to prevent a violence incident.

In Chapter 15, we move on to discuss administrative crime analysis.

Questions for Discussion

  • 1 How would you go about putting together a threat assessment team at your local high school?
  • 2 How would you best let the community know about the goals and purposes of a threat assessment team at a school or workplace?

Important Terms

Biopsychosocial model: This explanatory model serves as a foundation for violence risk fact-gathering during a threat assessment.

Catalyst Model: Christopher Ferguson and his colleagues (2008) have proposed a Catalyst Model to help explain youth aggressiveness. According to this model, genetic predisposition can lead to an aggressive child temperament; children with an aggressive temperament are more likely to engage in violent behavior during times of environmental stress and strain.

Four-Pronged Assessment Approach: An approach developed by the NCAVC when a credible threat has been received related to a school shooting, based on the “totality of the circumstances” known about the student in four major areas: personality of the student; family dynamics; school dynamics and the students role in those dynamics; and social dynamics.

Ideographic approach: An ideographic approach refers to a case study approach in which an individual, rather than a group of potential perpetrators, is identified and studied.

NC/lZC.'The FBI’s National Center for the Analysis ofViolent Crime (NCAVC) began studying violent incidents in the 1980s.

Pathway to violence model: A useful tool for threat assessors to visualize where a person may be concerning his or her commitment to using lethal violence as a means to resolve a grievance. The pathway steps are: (1) grievance; (2) ideation; (3) research and planning; (4) preparation; (5) probing, or breach of security measures; and (6) the attack itself.

Risk factor approach: An approach to threats of violence which is not about constructing a psychological “profile,” but giving warning signs that indicate whether a student or individual who has made a threat should be taken seriously.

Threat assessment: A threat assessment differs from a violence risk assessment because risk assessment focuses on predicting future acts of violence, while threat assessment focuses on preventing a prospective and specific act of violence.

Threat assessment approach: The threat assessment approach is based on examining direct, threatening statements and behavior, and then moving toward prevention.

Threat Assessment Strategy: The Threat Assessment Strategy' involves the development of a threat assessment team and utilizing that team to analyze every threat that comes to the team’s attention.

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