A study on terror attacks in the United States over the past thirty years revealed that many of the "lone wolf" suspects were rarely isolated and alone, boosting the claim that the government's advice of "see something, say something" can help prevent violence.
The "Lone Offender Terrorism Report" released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday, examined the circumstances surrounding 52 attacks since 1972, as well as the background, behavioral characteristics and circumstances behind the lone offenders and the people around them.
According to the chief of BAU’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, Special Agent John Wyman, authorities need to take a more holistic analysis when looking at someone they think could become a threat, as well as anticipate the idea that there are a variety of factors that drive the "lone wolf" attacks.
“As a result, there’s no checklist or scoresheet someone can use to say whether this person’s a threat or not," Wyman said.
Wyman says building teams of people who can appropriately assess and manage threats is key to preventing attacks.
"Everybody’s got a role—from the parent or sibling or classmate to local law enforcement to mental health counselors—to help us in preventing these acts," Wyman added. "The report’s findings argue for better coordination and cooperation between law enforcement and community stakeholders in order to try and identify and prevent these attacks from happening."
Some of the key takeaways from the report included:
- 83 percent of offenders had a previous record of hostile or aggressive behavior.
- 96 percent of the offenders produced writings or videos about the act that was intended to be viewed by the public.
- 25 percent of the cases included at least one other individual who was aware of the offender's research, planning, or preparation for an attack.
- Most places attacked by offenders had zero or minimal security.
- 25 percent of offenders had been previously diagnosed with one or more psychiatric disorders. Another 13 percent were diagnosed with psychiatric disorders after the attack.
- 92 percent of the cases included at least one person who was aware of the offender's state of mind or ideology. About one-quarter of those people reported their concerns to law enforcement.
"Absent this report and others like it, someone could see something and they’re solely relying on their gut feeling or spider sense to say, ‘That doesn't look right,’ or ‘That’s concerning,’" Wyman said. "I think by putting this information out there, it helps people get over that barrier. It gives you something to fall back on to validate whatever your gut feeling was."
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