Breaking the Incident Response Pattern: Understanding and Preventing Targeted Violence

Workplace Violence | Threat Management Assessment

It’s difficult to overlook instances of targeted violence as we browse the news each day. Whether it’s aimed at individuals or groups in public spaces, these headlines have sadly become all too familiar. Many wonder why they happen, hoping they’re just random acts of violence and the victims were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

However, these acts are never random. There are always signals, or pre-incident indicators, leading up to them in the days, months and years that precede them. From flagging disturbing social media posts and observing drastic changes in behavior to more obvious actions such as purchasing firearms and having a history of legal incidents, we cannot allow these disparate pieces of information to stand on their own. 

The media tends to report on incident response — why a certain venue was a ‘soft target’ or what measures took place to prevent the violence from spreading further. What if these events could be stopped before they have a chance to occur? It’s essential to connect the dots beforehand.

“While we cannot create a 100% secure environment, there are tactics and measures that can be done. For example, assessing areas of high congregation at public venues and saturating areas with a strong presence of officers,” Michael Rozin notes in an interview about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

Soft targets can be avoided by creating layers of security and a mindset shift in knowing that prevention is possible if we commit to the objective of finding these signals instead of focusing on how we respond. 

Internal vs. External Threat Actors

At Rozin Security, we believe most targeted violence incidents can and should be prevented. Operational environments are susceptible to threats from both external and internal actors, posing significant risks to physical and software assets. 

Internal Threats

To mitigate the risk of internal threat actors carrying out violence, organizations must implement a robust workplace violence prevention program. These individuals, which include current and former employees, contractors, and vendors, have access to physical property and software systems.

Crucial to preventing internal threats from progressing down the Pathway to Violence is having a program backed by scientifically and operationally proven methods of behavioral threat assessment and management. Employees are the foundation of organizations and ensuring they are trained to identify threats is critical and cannot rest on the shoulders of security alone. As a recent Psychology Today article notes, “Many people fail to report suspicious observations and behavior.”

Rozin Security offers clients the SIRA® (Suspicion Indicators Recognition and Assessment) system that incorporates employee training and threat mitigation protocols so employees know how and why it is important to report any suspicious activity they observe. The system is founded on proven methods of behavioral threat assessment and includes field behavior threat detection and security interviewing.

External Threats

On the flip side, external threat actors are often more challenging to find a tie to the victims or the venue they select. Having comprehensive security operations that are centered around behavioral threat detection techniques is one aspect of addressing this challenge. Having a way to connect the dots from previous events is necessary, as they can take place over several years, but all play an important role in a threat actor’s story.

Recognizing the need to store and track information related to threat activity, Rozin Technologies developed TIPS® (Threat Information Protection System). This intuitive platform is a targeted violence prevention system that provides central security and safety reporting, and threat assessment management. Paired with this technology, clients benefit from individualized support and a dedicated partner in achieving their security goals and identifying opportunities for improvement. 

“We’re grateful to partner with Rozin Security’s unparalleled team to pioneer a cutting-edge threat assessment and management program. Beyond the platform’s excellence and user-friendly features, what truly sets them apart is their genuine commitment to building relationships. They’re more than just a service provider; they’re like family. Rozin Security consistently prioritizes our needs, making us feel valued and supported. While their loyalty extends to all clients, they always deliver personalized attention and effectiveness that’s unmatched.” — Matt Talbot, Senior Threat Manager at Kroger

Case Example: Identifying Signs of Targeted Violence 

When the West Roads Mall shooting occurred in 2007 in the Von Maur department store, most were taken by complete shock and horror of the incident that occurred. Robert Hawkins stepped out of the third-floor elevator and immediately opened fire, killing eight individuals before shooting himself.

This seemingly random act of targeted violence has several stages of planning leading up to it, and, if captured, has the potential to prevent this attack from occurring in the first place. For example:

  • Surveillance — Security officers flagged Hawkins as a suspicious visitor days before the incident as he was wandering around the mall.
  • Intelligence Gathering — While Hawkins was visiting the mall he was likely gathering intelligence on entry points, areas of congregation, and planning his route to attack.
  • Intent — Hawkins left a suicide note indicating his desire to be famous, indicating predatory behavior and signs of emotional instability. (Read more here to learn about behaviors of concern: Why a Workplace Violence Program is Crucial to Preventing the Next Attack)

Final Thoughts

Targeted violence incidents are unfortunately all too common in today’s society. However, dismissing them as random events is not an option. It’s imperative to recognize warning signs preceding these tragedies and leverage proven operational methods and technology to connect the dots, informing preventive action and creating safer environments for everyone.

To learn more about these proven proactive security strategies and methods, please reach out to us at Rozin Security at