Violence IS Being Prevented: Learning from YouTube and Other Recent Acts of Violence

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Statistics do not matter when you’re in a life or death situation. It doesn’t matter who has a weapon or what the weapon is, what matters is that you survive.

On April 3, 2018, YouTube employees found themselves victims of an act of violence. A female armed with a gun walked into the YouTube headquarters and proceeded to shoot at employees, injuring three until turning the gun on herself. Although a female shooter is a rarity – it’s not impossible. According to an FBI study, of 160 “active shooter” incidents between 2000 and 2013, only six incidents, or 3.8%, were perpetrated by a female shooter. Five of those six shootings were incidents of workplace violence, where women attacked current or former coworkers at the places they had worked. All of these female shooters used handguns.

The shooter in this case was not a current or former employee, but instead an avid YouTube user who was unhappy with recent censoring regulations on the video-sharing website. Although the investigation is ongoing, officials believe this to be the motive. The perpetrator, along with many others, had lost money because YouTube was blocking her anti-animal abuse videos: they were exceptionally graphic. In interviews following the incident, the perpetrator’s father revealed his daughter told her family a couple of weeks ago that YouTube had been censoring her videos and stopped paying her for her content and “she was angry.” The brother of the assailant spoke to reporters and indicated she believed YouTube ‘ruined her life.’ When the family realized the perpetrator traveled to San Bruno, location of YouTube’s headquarters, they feared she may act on her hatred towards the company – and she did.

Nasime Sabz website message

Screenshot of message on Nasim Najafi Aghdam’s (the perpetrator) website:

The perpetrator’s social media accounts have since been deactivated.

We Cannot Overlook Prevented Acts of Violence

In wake of the tragedy that occurred at the YouTube headquarters, we must not overlook incidents that did not make the major network headlines.  We may never know how many incidents of violence are prevented every day; but we cannot forget or turn a blind eye to those who spoke up and acted when warning signs were exhibited, preventing an act of violence from escalating.Firestorm Intelligence solutions panel image

A student at a Connecticut high school was arrested on April 2nd after making a threat to fellow students and teachers via the social messaging app, Snapchat. The Naugatuck police received more than 50 calls about the post that read:

“… (Expletive) teachers better watch out for me this week … I’m not putting up with any (expletive) this week so (expletive) just the teachers, everyone better watch it,” according to police.

The post also indicated the student was stressed and “hates almost everyone.”

The school increased police presence the next day. Less than a week prior, another Connecticut student was arrested after posting a threatening message online with a pellet gun mirrored to resemble an automatic rifle. Brookfield Police Department arrested this student as well.

Connecticut is not the only state to recently identify behaviors of concern on social media and take action:

Michigan: March 22, 2018: 17-year-old boy arrested after social media threat closes 2 Farmington schools

Pennsylvania: March 22, 2018: Shaler police investigating social media threat; school district notified as precaution

Florida: March 25, 2018 – Baker County man arrested for making threats, posing with guns on social media

Texas: March 26, 2018: Students, parents on edge after social media threat to Bush High School

North Carolina: March 26, 2018 Threats temporarily close Fayetteville Banfield Pet Hospital

Florida: March 29, 2018: Social media threat causes concern at Rockledge High School

Virginia: April 2, 2018: Student identified, charged for allegedly making bomb threat to Marymount University

Many times after an incident of violence, people say, ‘there were warning signs that were missed.’ These schools and organizations identified the warning signs and acted. Did the threats escalate to violence? No. But did the threats have the possibility of escalation? Yes. The possibility is enough to intervene.

Prevention Before Escalation:

We can all agree that we never want to encounter school or workplace violence and we never want to call a parent/guardian/relative and say their child or loved one will not return home.

Our goal at Firestorm is violence prevention. We understand that schools and organizations are concerned about violence; however most deal with these concerns on a case-by-case basis with limited formalized structures or processes. That is why we established our Intelligence Solutions practice and spent six years creating our Behavioral Risk Threat Assessment program, known as BERTHA®.

The BERTHA® program is a proven methodology, system and process to prevent violence. The program provides the tools needed to identify, report and respond to potential behaviors of concern before they escalate. The purpose of BERTHA® is to identify, assess, manage, and monitor persons exhibiting behaviors of concern, long before they pose a threat of violence to themselves or others. The timing of that identification can range from long before commission of a violent act up to just prior to commission of the act, depending on the risk factors present, information available at that time, and other situational factors.

We have aggregated best practices from many sources in the mental health, threat assessment, law enforcement and education sectors. The program is both simple and effective and empowers proactive actions instead of reacting when it’s too late.

Integrating with the BERTHA® program is the ability to ‘listen’ and ‘look’ at conversations via new, social and traditional media in real-time. This can be accomplished via an established Intelligence Network.

Whether out of fear or doubt, people do not always report behaviors of concern they have witnessed. This is why preventative measures must have multiple layers. Establishing an intelligence network is vital for maintaining a safe learning and work environment. We strive to identify threatening messages before they become action. Simply having a ‘tool’ to monitor online messages is not enough. Expertise and experience are needed to understand the nuance of intelligence gathering. Learn about Threat Intelligence for schools and for business.

The answer to keeping those within our walls and on our property safe lies in prevention. And it is the job of every responsible leader to try and prevent acts of violence. If you had the opportunity to stop even one incident of self-harm or harm to others, would you?

Not sure where to start? Contact us or join us on April 24 at 10:30 a.m. ET for a 45-minute webinar session to learn how to identify behaviors of concern before the violence.

Firestorm April Webinar invitation

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