When I first saw the 22,000 number, I thought it was an annual amount, and even then I thought it seemed quite high.
But boy, was I off.
On average, the Federal Bureau of Investigation receives about 22,000 tips about potential threats of violence weekly. 22,000… Weekly...
And if that doesn’t seem high enough, that volume increased by about 15,000 following the high-profile shootings during the first week of August in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio that killed 34 people and wounded nearly 70. That number works out to over 3.5 tips per minute regarding violence.
I don’t know if the 22,000 weekly tips are just those that the FBI receives, or if that number also includes tips that local police departments are also receiving. Thus, the number is possibly understating the number of tips received by law enforcement.
In addition, this number does not seem to include the potential threats the FBI discovers on its own through the monitoring of social media sites and other sources.
As the story on ABC News points out, the reasons for the increase in tips and heightened awareness of thwarted mass shootings vary, according to law enforcement officials. In some cases, it’s the so-called “contagion effect” in which intense media coverage of mass shootings leads to more people seeking to become copycat killers. In other cases, it’s a reflection of the general public being more aware of warning signs when a friend or relative or co-worker is in an emotional crisis — and more willing to tip off police.
I can’t figure out if I’m happy or sad that the number seems so big.
On the one hand, it seems like it’s good that people are being more diligent in reporting their suspicions, the classic “see something, say something” attitude.
On the other hand, it’s kind of depressing that there is such a large number of reports of potential violence. Does that say something about who we are and what we’ve become? Does it suggest that we have become more prone to use violence as a way to solve a problem?
But it’s also obvious that a problem with such a large, and possibly growing number of tips, is finding the time to investigate all those tips.
The FBI has limited resources and has to decide which tips seem credible enough to investigate. But that still means they have to spend time looking at each tip that comes in and then prioritizing those tips.
And despite all these tips and monitoring of social media sites, sometimes a real act of violence, such as a mass shooter, might come out of nowhere; the shooter had been on no one’s radar screen.
So the high volume of tips seems to be a mixed blessing. And I don’t even know which direction the 22,000 number should go. Do we want that number increasing or decreasing?
Ultimately, though, what we all want is simply for the actual number of violent cases to go down.
I think we would all agree that such a decline would be a welcome outcome.
*image from Fortune