The National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) was established in the United States in 1998 by the U.S. Secret Service with the aim of identifying, assessing, and managing “persons who have the interest and ability to mount attacks against Secret Service protectees.” Its mission is to “provide guidance on threat assessment both within the Secret Service and to its law enforcement and public safety partners.”
The NTAC has been involved in conducting studies into attacks that have taken place on public officials and figures, and also within schools. The latter studies followed a rash of school attacks that were viewed with much concern owing to the inability of the authorities to protect every school at all times from every potential threat. To minimize the risk, in 2002, the NTAC conducted a Safe School Initiative (SSI), whereby its investigators studied all of the school shootings and other attacks related to schools that occurred over the period December 1974 to May 2000. This effort involved reviewing police records, school records, court documents, and other material for 37 incidents involving 41 students and ex-students. Investigators were also able to interview a number of the shooters themselves.
Based on these data, the NTAC concluded that most of the shootings were not impulsive, and that some of the shooters had engaged in extensive planning of their attacks. NTAC investigators also found that although there was no single “profile” of a shooter, the overwhelming majority of the students who became shooters had engaged in behavior that worried at least one adult, and sometimes a number of teachers or other staff at the school–and in certain cases, at least some students knew that a shooting might take place but did not warn the school authorities. Some of the shooters had discussed the ideas with others, and a few kept diaries in which they planned the attacks. The NTAC report also found that most of the shooters had used weapons prior to the attack, and that most of the shooting incidents were “stopped by means other than law enforcement intervention.”
In May 2002, the NTAC published its report, The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative by Bryan Vossekull and Dr. Robert A. Fein, Directors of the National Violence Prevention and Study Center; Dr. Marisa Reddy of the NTAC; Associate Professor Randy Borum of the University of South Florida; and William Modzeleski, Director of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program of the U.S. Department of Education. The organization also published another report, Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and Creating Safe School Climates, and made both reports available for free online.
- Dedman, B. (1999, June 21). Secret Service is seeking pattern for school killers; Gunmen’s motives and behavior examined. New York Times, p. A10.
- National Threat Assessment Center: http://www.secretservice.gov/ntac.shtml.