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How Evidence-based Practices Can Help Mitigate and Prevent Violence

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Published on: 06/22/2023
Last Updated: 06/22/2023
4 minute read

Forensic behavioral science practitioners are primarily focused on why violence occurs, including the motives behind criminal activities. Gaining a greater understanding of the psychology behind threats and violence helps forensic behavioral scientists play a crucial role in building safer societies. 

Evidence-based threat assessment and investigation are critical components of forensic behavioral science. By relying on rigorous research and factual analysis, these practices enable professionals to identify, evaluate, and manage potential threats effectively. In this blog post, we will explore the role of evidence-based threat assessment and investigation, providing factual and quality insights. We will also include real-world examples that illustrate the significance of this approach in understanding and addressing threats.

  1. Understanding Threat Assessment: Threat assessment involves a systematic and evidence-based approach to evaluating potential threats and developing strategies to mitigate and prevent violence. It encompasses the collection of relevant information, assessment of credibility, evaluation of risk levels, and formulation of risk management plans. By relying on evidence-based practices, professionals can ensure objectivity, accuracy, and effectiveness in their assessments.
  2. Incorporating Psychological Science: Forensic behavioral scientists apply psychology principles to enhance threat assessment and investigation processes. Understanding the psychological factors that contribute to violent behavior is essential in accurately evaluating threats. For instance, the assessment of warning signs, mental health factors, and behavioral indicators allows professionals to gain insights into the motivations and intentions of individuals who may pose a threat.
  3. Real-World Examples: 
    1. School Shootings: Evidence-based threat assessment has proven instrumental in preventing school shootings. Following the tragic events at Columbine High School in 1999, many educational institutions adopted threat assessment protocols. These protocols involve a multidisciplinary team gathering information, evaluating potential risks, and providing appropriate interventions to address the identified threats. This approach has been successful in preventing several potential school shootings, emphasizing the effectiveness of evidence-based threat assessment strategies.
    2. Workplace Violence: Workplace violence poses significant risks to employees and organizations. Evidence-based threat assessment plays a crucial role in identifying individuals who may exhibit warning signs of potential violence in the workplace. By utilizing comprehensive assessment tools, professionals can evaluate threats objectively, implement preventive measures, and develop intervention plans to ensure a safe work environment. Real-world cases, such as the “Going Postal” phenomenon in the United States during the 1980s and 1990s, underscore the importance of evidence-based threat assessment in mitigating workplace violence. (Thomas, 1986, pg. 4)
  4. Collaboration and Information Sharing: Effective threat assessment and investigation rely on collaboration among various stakeholders. Professionals in law enforcement, mental health, education, and other relevant fields must work together and share information to gain a comprehensive understanding of potential threats. For example, initiatives such as the Behavioral Threat Assessment Center (BTAC) in the United States promote collaboration between professionals from different backgrounds, agencies, and disciplines to assess and manage threats more effectively.
  5. Continuous Research and Adaptation: The field of evidence-based threat assessment and investigation continually evolves as new research emerges. Professionals must remain up to date with the latest findings and adapt their practices accordingly. The ongoing study of threat assessment allows forensic behavioral scientists to refine existing methodologies, improve accuracy, and enhance prevention strategies.
  6. Ethical Considerations: In all aspects of threat assessment and investigation, ethical considerations are paramount. Professionals must adhere to strict ethical guidelines, ensuring privacy, confidentiality, and respect for individuals' rights. The use of evidence-based practices promotes fairness, objectivity, and the avoidance of bias or discrimination.

By incorporating psychological science, collaborating across disciplines, and relying on rigorous research, professionals can effectively evaluate threats, mitigate risks, and prevent violence. Real-world examples demonstrate the successful application of evidence-based approaches, such as preventing school shootings and addressing workplace violence. Continuous research and adherence to ethical guidelines further contribute to the advancement of this critical field. Through evidence-based practices, forensic behavioral scientists play a vital role in creating safer communities and minimizing the impact of potential violence.


Thomas, R. (1986). Going postal is an American English slang phrase referring to becoming extremely and uncontrollably angry, often to the point of violence, and usually in a workplace environment. The expression derives from a series of incidents from 1986 onward in which United States Postal Service (USPS) workers shot and killed managers, fellow workers, police officers and members of the general public in acts of mass murder. Between 1970 and 1997, more than 40 people were killed by then-current or former employees in at least 20 incidents of workplace rage.

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