Deterring Attacks: Building Bonds of Community and Social Integration

The first defensive step is about building bonds of community and social integration toward preventing attacks, to make it both less likely that people will want to become attackers and more likely that those who do will be caught and diverted from violence.

  1. Community responsibility: Prevention is the responsibility of the whole community. It takes everyone to identify possible concerns to be able to prevent violence and support people in crisis. It also takes everyone to disincentivize mass killing.
    • Communities need solid mental health and support services to work with people facing difficulties, as well as trust with the community so that individuals will use those services and refer others to them. Trusted services pay dividends in general and, specifically, by helping divert those who might otherwise drift down a path of violence.
    • Trust and legitimacy are key aspects of getting members of the community to report. Law enforcement and other organizations need to provide assurances—especially to family members considering reporting their loved ones—that, as much as reasonably possible, efforts will be made to handle the response and continuing assessment outside the criminal justice system.
  2. Awareness: All members of law enforcement and the community need to know what to look for (i.e., warning signs), the vital role those warning signs can play in prevention, and how to submit tips. The next section, on initial detection, provides guidance on warning signs. In brief, people should report what reasonably looks like serious intent to kill members of the public, concrete actions toward carrying out an attack, and especially combinations of intent and action.
    • A first step is to build general knowledge about various types of mass attack threats and overarching strategies to combat them. The resources listed in the next section include a series of general knowledge references.
    • Next, determine the nature of the mass attack threat in your area, particularly for mass shootings and terrorism, by doing threat assessments. The resources listed in the threat assessment section include behavior threat assessments of the individual and an example assessment for the threat within a state (i.e., Texas).
    • When in doubt, call. The majority of tips are handled without arrests or prosecutions and often lead to people getting the help they need. A typical condition for attacks to reach fruition is that bystanders "see something" and have serious concerns, but choose not to report those concerns (Craun et al., 2020).
  3. Training: To build relationships and information, agencies need to plan and train together, such as through tabletop exercises and drills on how to address a variety of potential mass attack threats.
  4. Civic responsibility: The following are some broader civic recommendations on deterring attackers and incentivizing reporting:
    • Do not incentivize attackers by making them famous. A major contributor to the recent increase in mass attack casualties has been that shooters want to kill as many people as possible to achieve notoriety (Lankford and Silver, 2020).
    • Do not deter those who might know would-be attackers from reporting by treating them all as potential enemies. Tips leading to foiled plots often come from would-be attackers' associates, who themselves are not typically involved in violence. As examples, tips on right-wing plotters commonly come from those they know in conservative or right-wing groups and organizations. Tips on jihadist plotters commonly come from those they know in Muslim groups and organizations (Klein et al., 2020).

Next Page in the Prevent Phase

Tools and Resources for Deterring Attacks