Follow-Up Actions: No Prevention Opportunity Missed
Once the risk mitigation next steps are determined, someone must take them. A major contributing factor to larger plots reaching execution was whether follow-up actions were dropped prematurely (Strom, Hollywood, and Pope, 2016).
More Information on Missed Opportunities
The following figure shows the number of plots in our data that were foiled or reached execution, by types of initial clues provided (including cases with no initial clues). The bulk of foiled plots (about two-thirds) were initially discovered as a result of public reporting of direct threats or actions that were potentially directed toward a mass attack ("Unsolicited Public Tip" and "Direct Threat"). However, these plots also saw the highest numbers of cases that reached execution because those reports were dropped prematurely.
|Direct Threat from Perpetrator||6||1||10|
|Direct Threat from Perpetrator to Classmate/Peer||6||2||60|
|Direct Threat from Perpetrator to Co-Worker||2||6|
|Online Post/Thread from Perpetrator to Classmate/Friend||5||27|
|Tips About Potential Plots||16||3||87|
|Unsolicited Public Tip Reporting a Specific Plot||15||3||75|
|Suspicious Activity– Extremist Rants||2||10|
|Suspicious Activity– Paramilitary Training/Travel||4|
|Suspicious Activity– Potential Surveillance Activity||1|
|Suspicious Activity– Smuggling-Like Behavior||1|
|Suspicious Activity– Suspicious Documents Found||1||3|
|Associations with Known Suspects||3||21|
|Prior Terrorist Activity||1||1||4|
|Solicitation of an Undercover Agent or Informant||1||47|
|Ordinary Criminal Investigations||0||1||33|
|Criminally Suspicious Activity||1||13|
|No Initial Clue Type||220||29|
The majority of follow-up actions described by our expert interviewees were outside the criminal justice system. The interventions were often through mental health services but could include other social or community development services, depending on what the subject needed.
A three-part approach can help prevent these missed opportunities.
- Mitigation and Support Plan: Part of the threat assessment must be a mitigation plan to reduce crisis or threat levels in the immediate and long terms.
- Relentless Follow-Up: Run down all leads, reach out to partners, keep in touch with the person of concern, embrace a critical thinking mindset, and do not completely dismiss anything. Then, reassess on a regular schedule or when new key data come in. (Reassessment schedules and thresholds should be part of the mitigation and support plan.)
- Forward Prevention: Find early opportunities to divert people from violence. Do what you can to support the individual to mitigate the threat, but be ready to pursue a law enforcement route if the threat is high or is increasing.
Our subject-matter experts flagged the second part, relentless follow-up, as especially critical. This means continuing to monitor and work with a subject until the threat assessment team is confident that the subject no longer poses a threat. Relentless follow-up requires having active case management, with one agency (or organizational group, depending on the team) and dedicated person chosen to be case manager for each active case. It also includes having regularly scheduled team meetings of the relevant service providers to assess recent developments in the case, update the assessment's findings, and make follow-on decisions.
Because the majority of follow-up actions described by our expert interviewees were outside the criminal justice system, the case manager will often be from mental health or related social services, but could include leads from other social or community development services, depending on what the subject needs.
To prepare to carry out assessments, threat assessment teams should identify the resources and protocols in their communities. This effort will lay the groundwork to develop mitigation and support plans that support the needs of individuals under assessment. It also creates a clear opportunity earlier in the prevention stream for Forward Prevention actions.
If service providers in schools, workplaces, and other organizations can identify and work with people who are vulnerable or at risk of developing concerning behavior, follow-up actions provide an opportunity for getting those people support before they reach a crisis point.
More on Mitigation and Support Plans: A core result of the threat assessment must be a plan that specifies the follow-up actions to reduce crisis or threat levels in the immediate and long terms. The following figure shows common participants in a mitigation and support plan, including
- response teams that are responsible for addressing immediate calls for service and alerts. These teams are not just law enforcement; they include co-response and specialized response teams, such as mental health care providers.
- threat assessment teams
- partners tasked with carrying out specific service and community service interventions, ensuring that the interventions occur, and monitoring subjects' progress. These partners are members of the threat assessment team, with overall management for each case performed by the POC and responsible partners.
Readiness for Enforcement and Justice Actions. Although services and community support options are always preferred, sometimes it takes legal action to reduce the threat. These actions might include taking legal steps to remove guns or ultimately make an arrest. An interdiction strategy should always be planned in case the threat increases, especially if the threat is high or increasing. Specifically for interdiction strategies, you should
- be familiar with gun removal options in your state and work with the local District Attorney and courts to establish an understanding of how to move forward with these cases
- be familiar with Extreme Risk Protection Order (or similar) options in your state and work with the local District Attorney and courts to establish an understanding of how to move forward with these cases
- partner with your local U.S. Attorney for general coordination and on specific cases to access their resources and be on same page for legal options and other resources that are available at different stages.