Are we hardening soft-target areas or just not occupying them anymore?
It would be great to believe that we have finally got a handle securing soft-target locations from critical incidents such as Active Shooters. Right? If we trust the statistical data, there is empirical evidence to show that casualties are being significantly reduced. But maybe there is more to the story. According to the FBI, there has been a continuing upward trend in Active Shooter incidents since 2016.
There has been a 100% increase from 2016 to 2020, where 40 Active Shooter incidents occurred in the United States. So, more shooting incidents should equate to more casualties, right? The good news is that although the number of Active Shooter incidents continued to increase, the casualty rates decreased to the lowest number in five years (164). This has got to mean that we have effectively neutralized the impact of the violent intruder intent on causing harm to innocent people in populated areas, right? Not so fast. Let’s look at what’s been happening to impact our world. In 2020, society lost any sense of normality due to the COVID-19 virus. The pandemic created vast medical uncertainty regarding transmissibility and treatment while ushering in a new era of PPE use and sanitization measures. Education was remanded to distance-learning, businesses shifted to “work from home” models, churches were restricted from gathering, restaurants were reduced to take-out orders, and social group in public areas like bars or sporting events was all but eliminated. So generally speaking, there were a lot fewer target-rich environments available: fewer targets, more minor casualties.
Schools and churches have always been viewed as the typical “soft target” locations due to their dense populations and minimal security measures. We have added safety drills to increase our responses to the Active Shooter threat, placed secondary locking devices on our doors to prevent unwanted entry, obtained School Resource Officers, and initiated a zero-tolerance for threatening speech or actions. But these steps didn’t stop the Active Shooter; it was the COVID-19 pandemic that recorded the first March in 18 years without a school shooting. Sadly, in 2021 the upward trend in violence started all over again as we attempted to return to school, work, and life as we knew it. Schools began to re-focus their attention on physical security after realizing violence on school grounds around the nation, like Oxford High School in Michigan and Cesar Chavez High School in Arizona. In closing, we must deny the desire to implement safety measures based on a “knee jerk” reaction to stimulus. A myopic focus on a single threat leaves us vulnerable. Instead, we must remain vigilant in our approach to ALL threats.
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