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Deisinger addresses targeted violence on campus

Although Boise was ranked by as one of the best places to live, history has shown that even the most beautiful places can be disgraced by a single incident of violence.

In light of the recent shooting tragedy in Santa Barbara in which six students were killed, Gene Deisinger, a behavior threat assessment, management specialist and clinical psychologist, was asked to speak about the nature and process of targeted violence in higher institutions at Boise State. Most of his speech  revolved around the difficulties of profiling.

“The human mind has evolved to profile,” Deisinger said. This can be misleading.

According to Deisinger, the mind does two things when first meeting another person: first, it categorizes the interaction based on past experience. Then, it assigns meaning, deciding whether or not the situation threatens the individuals well-being or survival.

“The good news is those heuristics work fairly well some of the time,” Deisinger said. “The bad news is they don’t work very well much of the time.”

In Deisinger’s opinion, many believe there has been an outbreak of mass shootings throughout the country. He stresses that this is not the case; shootings are much less frequent than other forms of violence.

He feels the majority of violence happens when people aren’t aware of it.

The number one problem over the years has been self-induced harm or violence in the home, where only one offender and one victim are involved. Mass shootings have been mostly associated with targeted violence, however.

Furthermore, most incidents occur at the victim’s home where they are alone and vulnerable. This, according to Deisinger, isn’t the perception most people have about targeted violence.

“In terms of violent crimes, most campuses are safe,” Deisinger said.

Even so, it helps to be aware.

Although it is impossible to profile someone who may potentially cause harm to others, there are signs to watch for. Deisinger uses the phrase “pathway to violence” to describe an individual’s actions leading up to an incident.

When an individual’s mood becomes drastically different than usual, Deisinger said that is when a person is most susceptible to hurting themselves or others.

“Oftentimes, it’s pretty clear the person’s state of crises,” he said.

Usually these people will express their ideas of violence to friends or co-workers. They will go beyond just thinking about harming others by mapping out the event.

“This doesn’t mean everyone who thinks about violence will do it,” Deisinger said. “These are usually people that someone has expressed their concerns about previously.”

In any instance in which a potentially violent situation may take place, Boise Police Department lieutenant Rob Gallas urges students and faculty to report what they see.  “I’d rather be inconvenienced and be wrong than have someone notice something and not report it,” Gallas said.

In his opinion, the Boise community is safe because people are willing to act.

“We’re not doing this alone,” Gallas said.

Most instances in which law enforcement officers catch someone in the act of a crime, he says, are when a bystander is paying attention and reports it.

In cases in which students are already on campus when an incident occurs, Gallas strongly recommends opting-in to Bronco Alert. This resource will either send you a text or email depending on preference if something serious takes place on campus. Students who want to opt-in can do so by clicking the link on their Bronco web home page. The entire sign-up process takes less than two minutes.

Gallas also recommends students and faculty take a more active approach by imagining their actions in these situations.

“If you’ve already thought it through, you’re going to respond that way,” Gallas said.

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