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Pathway to Violence: DHS Bulletin

byLowers & Associates | December 13, 2016

Violence is a pervasive risk in our world, the quintessential human risk. It appears in many contexts: terrorism, workplace violence, random acts of public mayhem. These ultimate, anti-social acts may be the result of organized anarchy aimed at destabilizing our communities through the destruction of trust and the bonds of civility.

But often, even in cases of terrorism, violence is perpetrated by a single individual who has become unmoored from prevailing social control. The internal processes that lead any person to commit these acts are impossible to observe fully, and they undoubtedly vary from one individual to the next. Yet managers and public safety officers of all types are still responsible to identify and eliminate risks of violence before they occur.

Although “pathway to violence” is a common phrase in discussions of the evolution of violence, there are few succinct descriptions of it. Now, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued “Pathway to Violence” in a one-page PDF summary describing some of the warning signals in individual behaviors that may be precursors to violence.

The PDF suggests factors that will be familiar to managers responsible for mitigating human risk in organizations. For examples, managers should be alert to individuals exhibiting behaviors such as:

  • Increasingly erratic and aggressive actions.
  • Sudden changes in status that might amplify stress, such as financial setbacks or family crises.
  • Legal challenges.

DHS and other sources provide a number of documents to expand on the pathway to violence and how to interdict it. Many, but not all, of these are focused on violent extremism, but they do address practical experience in fighting violence and may be useful to people who want a deeper dive on the warning signs and what to do about them.

The DHS report on American foreign fighters includes a section on identifying individuals at risk.

An extensive analysis from a psychiatric point of view is in this powerpoint presentation from Harvard.

A systematic typology of warning behaviors is in this academic report from Behavioral Sciences and the Law.

Monitoring employees and others who frequent a space requires awareness of warning behaviors and attention. The risk is rare, but the impacts can be very large.

Download a Copy of the DHS Pathway to Violence PDF here.



Lowers & Associates provides comprehensive enterprise risk management solutions to organizations operating in high-risk, highly-regulated environments and organizations that value risk mitigation.
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