As the United States recovers from a week of high-profile shootings, a new report on mass attacks is calling on communities to intervene when they see warning signs of violence.
It encourages companies to consider workplace violence prevention plans and highlights the link between domestic violence, misogyny and mass attacks.
The report released Wednesday by the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center analyzed 173 mass attacks carried out over a five-year period, from January 2016 to December 2020 in public or semi-public places such as businesses, schools or churches.
It was released as the United States experienced a particularly deadly start to the new year that left 39 people dead in six massacres, including one this week in Monterey Park, California. This attack alone resulted in the death of 11 people in a dance hall as they welcomed the Lunar New Year.
“It happens too often,” Lina Alathari, director of the center, told a news conference ahead of the report’s release.
Alathari said that while the center hasn’t specifically studied the shootings that took place this week, there are themes seen “again and again” when analyzing the mass attacks.
The report is the latest in a series undertaken by the center to examine the problem of mass attacks. While previous reports looked at the specific years of 2017, 2018 and 2019, the new report covers multiple years of data and gives a “deeper analysis of the thinking and behavior of mass attackers”.
The center defines a mass attack as one in which three or more people – not including the attacker – were injured. Almost all of the attacks were perpetrated by a single person, 96% of the attackers were male, and the attackers were between 14 and 87 years old.
The report notes that nearly two-thirds of attackers exhibited behaviors or communications “that were so concerning that they should have received an immediate response.”
He said those concerns were often shared with law enforcement, employers, school staff or parents. But in a fifth of cases, the concerning behavior was not passed on to anyone “able to respond, demonstrating a continued need to promote and facilitate witness reporting”.
The report also called for greater attention toward domestic violence and misogyny, noting that nearly half of the abusers studied had a history of domestic violence, misogynistic behavior or both.
“While not everyone who holds misogynistic views is violent, views that depict women as the enemy or call for violence against women remain a cause for concern,” the report said.
About half of the attacks in the study involved a place of business, and the attackers often had a prior relationship with the company, as an employee, customer or former employer.
The report also noted the role that grievances such as workplace disputes or feuds with neighbors played in the mass attacks. About half of the attacks were motivated “in whole or in part by a perceived grievance,” according to the report.
“Workplaces should establish behavioral threat assessment programs as part of their workplace violence prevention plans, and companies should also establish proactive relationships with area law enforcement so that ‘they can work collaboratively to respond to incidents involving the risk of violence, whether that issue stems from a current employee, a former employee, or a customer,’ the report read.