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The United States Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) Comes to Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) to Share Insight and Data on Mass Attacks in Public Spaces

Dr. Lina Alathari and Provost Dr. Haggray

Dr. Lina Alathari, Chief of the Secret Service, National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC), shared her research and findings for the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center Mass Attacks in Public Spaces 2018 Conference, which opened with Dr. Annette Haggray, Provost of NOVA’s Alexandria Campus welcoming all and thanking everyone from the public, private, and government sectors for helping to keep our communities safe.

In support of prevention efforts, the NTAC is tasked with delivering research, training, consultation, and information sharing on threat assessment and the prevention of targeted violence, including targeted attacks directed at workplaces, houses of worship, schools, and other public spaces. NTAC’s 2018 report analyzes mass attacks that were carried out in public spaces, building upon Mass Attacks in Public Spaces (MAPS) - 2017. It offers further analysis and operational considerations to their partners in public safety.

“Our number one priority is our protective mission,” said Dr. Alathari. “We study these cases because it helps us to look after the First Family, facilities, and other protectees that we have. Our cases have included attacks on schools, retail establishments and businesses, open places, government targets, and more.”

The study of school violence is now a huge ongoing effort by NTAC. They viewed hosting their conference at NOVA as an opportunity for school personnel to come together with other public safety stakeholders such as faith-based organizations, federal, state and local law enforcement, first responders, and those from the mental health industry.

“It really is a community partnership,” said Dr. Alathari. “I think because of all the work we have been doing, especially since Parkland, schools are very important. The biggest thing that all of our research shows, and our training focuses on is that there are always opportunities for early intervention.” Most individuals who exhibit concerning behavior elicit the worry of others in their lives, whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, school counselors, or teachers. The opportunity to share information is in hopes that early intervention is possible.

Twenty-seven incidents were carried out in 18 states, at 28 different sites, with most occurring at places of business. Three of the attacks were carried out at high schools. A common life stressor for school-related attacks is being forced to withdraw from school.

Sites of Attacks                2018              2017

Places of Business                  20                  13

Open Spaces                               4                    9

Schools                                          3                    4

Transportation                           0                    3

Houses of Worship                  1                    2

For the past 20 years, the Secret Service has been studying the various forms of targeted violence to identify prevention opportunities. The three key components they use are: identify the individual, assess the situation, and manage any risk of violence posed by the individual.

“Threat assessment” refers to a proactive approach to violence prevention and is one of the most effective practices for prevention. It is an investigative model originally developed by the U. S. Secret Service to prevent assassinations but has since been adapted to prevent all forms of targeted violence, regardless of motivation. This includes K-12 school shootings and acts or workplace violence.

NOVA supports NTAC’s prevention efforts and uses their valued data in developing emergency preparedness procedures specific to the College community. “NOVA strives to be proactive when warning signs emerge,” said Dr. Haggray. “We have a threat assessment team that works hard to connect the dots and take action before an incident occurs.”

Click here to read Lt. John Weinstein’s article on how the NOVA Police Department works to keep our faculty, staff and students safe.

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Northern Virginia Community College is the largest institution of higher education in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls more than 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield and Woodbridge, and through NOVA Online. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, call 703-323-3000 or visit the College's Web site, www.nvcc.edu.

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