Statement on Newtown Shootings

December 19, 2012

On behalf of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence we offer our deepest sympathy to the families of the victims of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, to the Newtown community and to our grieving nation. We are all shocked and horrified by the unspeakable nature of these events. This tragic shooting is yet another reminder that our nation can and must take action to prevent violence.

Our best chance of early intervention to prevent a tragedy of any nature is when we receive information about suspicious or concerning behavior. We have learned that good surveillance and intelligence is a key violence prevention strategy. Perpetrator warning signs were found in a study of school shootings conducted by the U.S. Secret Service. In four out of five school shootings examined by the U.S. Secret Service, someone knew the event was going to take place. They also found that most attackers engaged in some behavior prior to the incident that caused concern or indicated a need for help.

The Safe2Tell anonymous reporting system ensures that all Colorado students, parents, teachers and community members have access to a safe and anonymous way to report any safety concerns. Tips are reported anonymously to a toll-free number (1-877-542-7233) or through a Web reporting feature that can be accessed at and through two-way dialogue texting. Safe2Tell has prevented 28 planned school attacks and responded to over 700 threats of violence since its inception in 2004.

In the 13 years since Columbine we have also made significant progress in violence prevention and intervention. The best violence prevention begins before kids are born and continues through childhood and adolescence and we have tested effective programs to prevent violence throughout the life course. We also have effective intervention programs for those youth that are already engaged in violent behaviors. We encourage schools and communities to use a data-driven approach to determine areas of concern and then implement proven effective prevention programs to meet the challenges of the students (i.e., delinquency, bullying, mental health, violence, substance abuse, etc.). This data driven approach includes assessing the school climate from the perspective of students, staff and parents and monitoring efforts to make sure the programs are having the intended effects. These effective programs offer enormous cost savings to society but seldom are they fully funded or well implemented. For example, less than 5% of eligible high-risk offenders are being treated with an evidence-based program due mainly to lack of funding and the availability of such programs in communities.

Our nation clearly possesses the tools and knowledge needed to prevent violence and to throw safety lines to those young people who already have been swept up in the currents of violence. To this point we have lacked the leadership, political will and funding to fully implement these models. Let us commit to changing this and putting what we know works into action.

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