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Reporting Suspicious Behavior Can Prevent Tragedy

Jul 23, 2014 6:30:00 AM

Suspicious_BehaviorActive shooter events can occur anywhere. No school or business is immune. But there are steps we can take to help prevent violent attacks.

In our “Can You Spot A Leak?” blog post we explained how research has suggested that there are leaks in the majority of active shooter cases. This means that the person(s) planning the violence communicate it in some form prior to the event. Monitoring, identifying, and responding to leaks can help prevent the violence.

Similarly, identifying and reporting suspicious behaviors and activities is critical to prevention. Individuals do not generally just “snap” and become violent. Over time they tend to display indicators of potentially violent behavior. With early recognition, these behaviors can often be treated or managed. We can better educate ourselves on what these behaviors look like in order to prevent active shooter incidents or other violent situations.

Recognizing Suspicious Activity

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), as well as many law enforcement agencies at state and local levels, use a program called “If you see something, say something” to educate the public on suspicious behavior and the importance of reporting activity. The DHS provides the following as indicators of potentially violent behaviors in an employee. These can also apply to school violence. The list is not comprehensive, but provides a framework for recognizing suspicious behaviors.

  • Increased use of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
  • Unexplained increase in absenteeism; vague physical complaints
  • Noticeable decrease in attention to appearance and hygiene
  • Depression / withdrawal
  • Resistance and overreaction to changes in policy and procedures
  • Repeated violations of company policies or school rules
  • Increased severe mood swings
  • Noticeably unstable, emotional responses
  • Explosive outbursts of anger or rage without provocation
  • Suicidal; comments about “putting things in order”
  • Behavior which is suspect of paranoia, (“everybody is against me”)
  • Increasingly talks of problems at home
  • Escalation of domestic problems into the workplace; talk of severe financial problems
  • Talk of previous incidents of violence
  • Empathy with individuals committing violence
  • Increase in unsolicited comments about firearms, other dangerous weapons and violent crimes

How To Report Suspicious Activity

If you observe something suspicious, you should notify authorities immediately. If it is an emergency situation, always call 9-1-1.

A Report Can Prevent Tragedy

A woman in Minnesota noticed a teen boy acting suspiciously at a storage locker facility and reported it to the local police. When they arrived, police discovered bomb-making supplies in the 17 year old’s storage locker. The teenager informed authorities that he had been planning to kill his family and then attack the high school.

If the woman had not contacted police, it is likely that strategy would have struck Waseca, Minnesota in the upcoming weeks. “This case is a classic example of citizens doing the right thing and calling the police when things seem out of place. By doing the right thing, unimaginable tragedy has been prevented,” said the local police department, as reported to CNN.

If you see something, say something. Reporting suspicious behavior to the authorities can prevent tragedy. 





Written by Gibson

Gibson is a team of risk management and employee benefits professionals with a passion for helping leaders look beyond what others see and get to the proactive side of insurance. As an employee-owned company, Gibson is driven by close relationships with their clients, employees, and the communities they serve. The first Gibson office opened in 1933 in Northern Indiana, and as the company’s reach grew, so did their team. Today, Gibson serves clients across the country from offices in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Utah.