Early Warning Signs of Violence

Rarely is extreme violence a solitary event. Extreme violence is generally the last burst in a line of dangerous and foreseeable behavior. In the early stages, troubling behaviors are correctable and minimize volatile situations if caught early. Over time, the untreated offender may become more frustrated, aggressive, and committed to deliver violence.

Most people who commit violence tell others what they plan to do, rarely do they just snap without warning. Those who used extreme violence in the past generally exhibit various behaviors and personality traits. Identifying at-risk characteristics can bring attention to a troubled individual or may identify possible planned violent events. Although few individuals will commit violence, they require monitoring when they exhibit several behaviors and traits.


  • History of aggression/violence/bullying
  • Specific/detailed threats to harm another
  • Destruction of personal and/or school property
  • Recent attempts to secure weapons
  • A pattern of poor interpersonal relationships
  • Recent attempts/talk of suicide
  • Involvement with hate groups or criminal gangs
  • Frequently angry, easily frustrated
  • Defiance of authority


  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Mental health issues
  • Socially isolated
  • Recent problems at home/school/work
  • Extreme paranoia/suspicion
  • Recent serious attacks to self-esteem

Preventing a Crisis

Stopping the process before an event and education are the keys to preventing violence. University's that have a healthy campus and progressive safety protocol that addresses minor violations will lower the risk of violent events. A healthy campus may provide an increase in peaceful solutions. The planning of a violent episode may begin before the early signs are recognized. Recognizing these signs provides the campus an opportunity to intervene.

Various strategies to prevent a crisis include:

  • Communicate a clear policy against and consequences for violent behavior.
  • Identify potential offenders and victims early.
  • Report threatening behaviors promptly; respond quickly to reports.
  • Train/sensitize staff to conflict management, communication and anger control skills.
  • Identify resources (internal and external) for faculty, staff and students.
  • Conduct focus groups, surveys to determine the wellness of the workplace.
  • Do not assume threatening behaviors will stop; take all threats seriously.

Defusing a Crisis

Defusing actions should be taken when confronted by a potentially dangerous individual or situation. Individuals should avoid using hostile, threatening, or apathetic communications with an aggressive person. Rejecting demands from the start, showing disrespect, trivializing the situation or invading the individual's personal space can set the individual off. Use neutral body language and avoid staring at the individual. Unless requested, remain seated and do not attempt to touch the individual or rush them. Never agree or argue with the individual's distorted statements. The following is an acronym that will guide people in defusing a situation.

  • Do stay calm.
  • Establish rules and work to calm the person down.
  • Focus on positive outcomes.
  • Uncover what the person wants; repeat what is requested.
  • Speak slowly, confidently, quietly and use active listening techniques.
  • Encourage the person to consider peaceful solutions; offer support.

Post-Crisis Response

People will feel anxiety and stress after a violent event. Do not expect or pretend the situation will be normal. The campus many implement some of the following strategies

  • Discuss/debrief the incident with your staff/faculty and/or students.
  • Consider the need for immediate counseling services.
  • Don't feel that you should have all the answers; ask for help.
  • Look for signs of stressed individuals.
  • Change locks, add alarms and other types of physical security.

As a member of the campus community, it is important to know that your safety and the campus community's safety is of highest importance to the administration. Campus representatives have been designated and trained to deal with a variety of threatening situations. They are available to assess the situation and specify appropriate safety measures.

If a threatening behavior or situation occurs, it is crucial that you take these threats seriously and contact the appropriate person immediately. For any type of preventative or non-emergency assistance, the current campus contacts are listed below. In the event of an imminent threat, contact 911 immediately.

For any type of preventive of non-emergency assistance, the contacts are listed below:

  • Vice President Student Affairs 701-845-7201 or 3-7201
  • Valley City Police non-emergency 701-845-3110
  • Campus Safety 701-845-7710 or 3-7710 or 701-845-7700 or 3-7700
  • Campus Security / Power House 701-845-7708 or 3-7708
  • Human Resources 701-845-7401 or 3-7401
  • Campus Nurse 701-845-7212 or 3-7212

Office Information

VCSU Safety Office:

Safety Coordinator | Risk Management Contact
Jessica Frerich

Other Contacts:

Vice President for Student Affairs

Campus Nurse
Pat Egeberg

Power House
(after hours safety)