A US Secret Service Report Looks for Similarities in Large-Scale Attacks

Days after back-to-back mass shootings in California left 18 victims dead, a groundbreaking report is published.

After a shooter killed seven people at two agricultural enterprises in Half Moon Bay, California, US investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) approach the crime site.
After a shooter killed seven people at two agricultural enterprises in Half Moon Bay, California, US investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) approach the crime site [Aaron Kehoe/The Associated Press]

The United States Secret Service has published a report in an effort to identify patterns among the numerous instances of mass violence that have occurred in public places across the nation.

The data was made public on Wednesday, bringing attention once more to the relatively frequent occurrence of significant-scale and frequently fatal attacks in the US, days after back-to-back mass shootings in California left 18 people dead.

The survey found that, between 2016 and 2020, 173 targeted attacks occurred in the nation's "public or semipublic locations." "Businesses, schools, houses of worship, open spaces, and other venues where we conduct our daily lives" were among those settings.

Three or more individuals were hurt in each of the 173 occurrences, excluding the perpetrator.

The majority of all age groups, 63 of the 180 assailants were between the ages of 25 and 34. 14 to 24 and 35 to 44 years old were the next highest age groups. Almost all of the attackers—about 96%—were men.

Guns were used in over three-quarters of the attacks. There were 88 reported occurrences in business locations, including restaurants and retail businesses, and another 60 in public areas including streets, sidewalks, and parking lots. 13 occurred in places of learning, and 5 in places of worship.

Tools are available to 'prevent' targeted violence

The release of Wednesday's report coincides with an increase in community-level early detection and prevention methods, or "behavioral threat assessment."

Based on the 173 incidents that were discovered, the research draws the conclusion that "targeted violence is preventable when communities are equipped with the right tools, training, and resources to intervene before violence happens."

One of the report's most important findings was that before becoming violent, most assailants "elicited alarm" from family members, acquaintances, neighbors, students, and coworkers. Over half had a history of mental health concerns, and many had a history of being physically violent or acting in an intimidating manner.

Additionally "driven by grudges," half of the attackers were taking revenge for perceived personal wrongs at work or at home.

According to the research, a fifth of the perpetrators "adopted conspiracy theories or diabolical ideologies, including anti-government, anti-Semitic, and sexist attitudes."

However, the survey highlighted that rather than targeting specific targets, the assailants used violence against random individuals in more than two-thirds of the cases. The same percentage of attackers communicated in a threatening or unsettling manner before carrying out violent acts.

The majority of threats that preceded violence, according to the survey, were imprecise, which emphasizes the necessity for early action even in the absence of more explicit utterances.

The report suggested that workplaces create violence-prevention policies in order to increase general safety. Additionally, it urged communities to promote early reporting of any suspicious behavior, paying special attention to instances of misogyny or domestic violence.

First-ever Secret Service report

Protecting the president and vice president of the United States, as well as the president-elect and vice president-elect, is the primary responsibility of the Secret Service, a division of the Department of Homeland Security.

To support those with "public safety obligations," the organization's National Threat Assessment Center was established in 1998.

The report on Wednesday was the first of its type.

For its part, the Department of Justice's Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) started keeping track of 'active shooter' occurrences in 2017. According to the agency, an "active shooter" is a person who is actively engaged in randomly shooting or attempting to kill individuals in a public setting.

The Secret Service dossier was made public just two days after a shooter in Half Moon Bay, California, killed seven people. According to authorities, there is indications that the shooting may have been a "workplace violence event."

A Lunar New Year event near Los Angeles, California, was the scene of 11 fatal shootings just two days earlier, on January 21, when a shooter opened fire.

Data gathered by the Gun Violence Archive indicates that at least 70 people have died in mass shootings around the US so far in 2023. (GVA).

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