Threat assessment: Levels of risk

Low level of threat: A threat that poses a minimal risk to the victim and public safety.

• The threat is vague and indirect.

• Information contained within the threat is inconsistent, implausible, or lacks detail.

• The threat lacks realism.

• Content of the threat suggests the threatener is unlikely to carry it out.

Medium level of threat: A threat that could be carried out, although it might not appear entirely realistic.

• The threat is more direct and more concrete than a low-level threat.

• Wording in the threat suggests the threatener has given some thought to how the act will be carried out.

• There may be a general indication of a possible place and time (though short of a detailed plan).

• There is no strong indication that the threatener has taken preparatory steps, although there might be some veiled reference or ambiguous or inconclusive evidence pointing to this possibility—an allusion to a book or movie that shows the planning of a violent act, or a vague, general statement about the availability of weapons.

• There might be a specific statement seeking to convey that the threat is not empty: “I’m serious!” or “I really mean this!”

High level of threat: A threat that appears to pose an imminent and serious danger to the safety of others.

• The threat is direct, specific, and plausible.

• The threat suggests concrete steps have been taken toward carrying it out—for example, statements indicating that the threatener has acquired or practiced with a weapon or has the victim under surveillance.

Source: “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective,” a report issued by the Federal Bureau of Investigation

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