The Patterns Behind Mass Shootings and the Creation of The Violence Project

We all have events or situations in our childhood that shape who we are today. While many are uplifting, there are less fortunate people who encountered childhood trauma, setting them off track to commit some of the most upsetting crimes. Dr. Jillian Peterson, President and Co-Founder of The Violence Project, has dedicated her career to investigating these stories. While with the New York Capital Defender’s Office, she analyzed physiological social development life histories of death row inmates to determine patterns of events that led them from childhood to—in some cases—committing murder. 

In this episode, Fred and Jill discuss the pathways to violence, and the (all too often) missed opportunities for prevention when it comes to mass shootings. She shares the common patterns of pre-incident behaviors, from the level of planning, communication, and connection to the location where the violence occurred. Importantly, she shares helpful guidance for better monitoring plans, and voices her hope that more individuals will change their path when planning an act of violence as we use technology to track and connect with more people.  

Dr. Peterson is President and Co-Founder of the Violence Project, a nonpartisan research center and think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society. The organization provides valuable resources for training and research, and has a database of 174 mass shootings. She launched her career as a special investigator in New York City, and since then she has led large-scale research studies on mental illness and crime, school shooting prevention, and mass violence, receiving national media attention. Jill earned her Master’s in social ecology and Doctorate in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She is a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hamline University and the faculty director of the Center for Justice and Law. 


Episode Notes:

Learn more about The Violence Project and Dr. Peterson’s upcoming book release here