INTELLIGENCE Volume 2, Issue 1, April 2013: The Precision of Actuarial Risk Assessment Instruments

INTELLIGENCE Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 2013

Welcome to the first issue of the second volume of intelligence.

Intelligence will keep you up to date with the recent advances in threat assessment from around the globe.
World-leading threat assessment figures have agreed to share their knowledge and experiences and serve on the Intelligence editorial board.

We also encourage you to contribute and provide feedback.

Our latest research update, The Precision of Actuarial Risk Assessment Instruments, can be found in this issue, along with other research and practice news and views.

We hope Intelligence will continue to provide a forum for you to share and develop your expertise in threat assessment.
Sincerely,

Kelly A. Watt, PhD
Threat Assessment Specialist
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

 

Latest Research

The Precision of Actuarial Risk Assessment Instruments
Update by Dr. Kelly A. Watt

There has been a longstanding debate in the field of threat assessment about the relative strengths and weaknesses of actuarial risk assessment instruments (ARAI). Actuarial risk assessment instruments are psychological tests designed to estimate the likelihood of future criminal or violent behavior. They have gained widespread use in the field of forensic mental health over the last thirteen years and are used in many high-stakes psycholegal assessments. Proponents of these instruments suggest they are the most reliable and valid means of predicting violence risk, while critics of these instruments suggest that evidence does not support these claims.

Dr. Stephen Hart and Dr. David Cooke make a substantial contribution to this debate in their recent article by exploring the precision of individual risk estimates made using ARAI. The article builds on their previous work in this area that found that ARAI had no predictive validity at an individual level when looking at the margin of error of the scores. Not surprisingly, their findings were viewed by some proponents of ARAI as “controversial” and have sparked several debates in the field about the methods used to reach these findings. Their recent article builds on their previous work by developing a new ARAI solely for this study to demonstrate their logical and statistical arguments in a more concrete manner. Consistent with their previous research, they found that it is almost impossible to make meaningful individual risk estimates using ARAI scores. Quoting Neils Bohr, they concluded that that “Prediction is difficult, especially about the future.” Their article concludes with a discussion of important implications of these findings for research and psycholegal practice, including the clinical use of ARAI, the admissibility in court of ARAI, and the practice of violence risk assessment.

This article is a critical read for all threat assessment professionals who use ARAI in practice to assist them in understanding and acknowledging the limitations of these tests when communicating about the implications of their findings with others.

Hart, S. D. & Cooke, D. J. (2013). The (Im-) Precision of Individual Risk Estimates Made Using Actuarial Risk Assessment Instruments. Behavioural Science and the Law, 31(1), 81-102

 

Practice Update

Guide for Victims of Digital Stalking
Update by Dr. P Randall Kropp

Stalkers can be creative in finding ways to harass their victims using the rapidly expanding universe of digital technology. To combat stalking, it is necessary for threat assessment professionals and victims to understand this technology, but staying informed is a daunting task. To help remedy this problem, cyberstalking expert, Jennifer Perry, in collaboration with the UK Network for Surviving Stalking (NSS) and the Women’s Aid Federation of England, has authored Digital stalking: A guide to technology risks for victims.

The informative and practical guide offers an introduction to the related problems of cyberstalking and digitally assisted stalking, and provides clear descriptions of the technologies involved (e.g., mobile phones, social networks, computer software, and geolocation tracking). The guide provides a list of key warning signs of digital stalking and offers critical safety tips for stalking victims, including precautions to take when social networking. The document also proposes strategies and tactics for directly reducing risks associated with cyber- and digitally assisted stalking, including advice about computer safety and reporting of suspicious behaviors. Useful examples and case studies are offered throughout. Currently in its second edition, the guide is intended to be updated regularly, and can easily be easily accessed online (see below).

The guide is available from Network for Surviving Stalkingwebsite. and Women’s Aid Federation.website

J. Perry (2012). Digital stalking: A guide to technology risks for victims. Network for Surviving Stalking and Women’s Aid Federation of England.

 

Book Review

Walking away from terrorism: Accounts of disengagement from radical and extremist movements
Review by Ms. Alana Cook

The assessment and management of individual risk for terrorism violence has increasingly been highlighted at professional meetings and in academic articles in our field, such as the Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals and the International Association of Forensic Mental Health Professionals.

In his book, Walking Away from Terrorism: Accounts of disengagement from radical and extremist movements, Dr. John Horgan presents an empirical investigation of terrorism involvement and disengagement. Dr. Horgan is an internationally recognized expert for his work on terrorism violence and is the current director for the International Study for the Center of Terrorism at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Horgan begins his book by providing an overview of what we know about terrorism involvement and disengagement. Disengagement from terrorism is a challenging and complex topic that we are just beginning to explore. He then presents six cases studies that demonstrate several important themes surrounding the process of entry, activity, and disengagement in terrorist groups. Dr. Horgan concludes his book by integrating current literature and the cases studies presented to spell out the process of disengagement from terrorism, promote the investigation of disengagement, and outline implications for policy, for example the importance of recognizing that there are diverse and numerous roles for an individual and play within a terrorist group and that these roles impact the level and type of interventions required.

Dr. Horgan’s book clearly articulates the need for threat assessors to understand a terrorist at the individual level, as well within the context of their group, and the social, cultural, and community influences of that individual. At a global level, Dr. Horgan’s book has stimulated thinking in the assessment and management of other forms of group-based violence – extremist groups (e.g., environmental extremists), organized crime (e.g., outlaw motorcycle gangs), fringe groups (e.g., Freeman Sovereign Citizen), and youth gangs. His conclusions help us broaden our scope from individual factors for violence to the interaction of an individual within a group. Dr. Horgan has also demonstrated the importance of looking beyond terrorist involvement, to disengagement in terrorist activities – focusing our attention beyond assessing for risk to management and treatment of individuals embedded within complex groups and group dynamics. This book is highly recommended for anyone working with individuals who are involved in extremist, terrorism, or other forms of group-based violence.

Horgan, J. (2009). Walking away from terrorism: Accounts of disengagement from radical and extremist movements. Routledge. [ISBN: 9780415439435].

 

Industry Association News

European Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Message from President Bram Van der Meer

The historical Austrian city of Vienna is ready for our association’s 6th annual conference. The board of AETAP is proud to have world-leading experts attending and speaking, which will again make this an exclusive event. As an association we stand for high quality presentations and seminars, and at the same time creating an open forum where professionals can safely interact with trustworthy and professional colleagues from other countries and from different working environments. I believe that in short period of time AETAP has developed a solid scientific identity, without having lost the connection between scientific research professionals and threat assessment fieldwork. Our 2010 conference in The Hague, The Netherlands, was titled ‘from science to practice’. Looking back over the years, I now firmly believe that this slogan has become part of our association’s identity and makes our events attractive.

The AETAP board sees it as our duty to further enhance and support high quality European threat assessment research. We are therefore very glad that the handbook of threat assessment will be published by Oxford University Press in the next few months and that the recent establishment of a threat assessment journal will have it’s first publication soon. Such developments certainly create better awareness of threat related problems in the European context.

We are delighted to see increasing numbers of representatives from the European private sector (such as the airline industry and the financial and banking sector) showing their interest in AETAP’s work and conferences. We see it as our mission to create a secure environment where threat assessment professionals from the corporate world, from research departments of universities, from government organizations such as police and intelligence departments, and from mental health organizations and clinical practice can learn from each other and find professional connections. Unfortunately we also see examples of government organizations being reluctant to interact with non-governmental organizations, one of the reasons being the fear of leakage of confidential information. Although AETAP encourages every initiative, also outside AETAP, that promotes threat assessment and management, it is disappointing to see that the European Network on Public Figure Threat Assessment has been closed to non-government officials over the last two years. AETAP as a group of threat assessment experts would like to achieve quite the opposite: active communication, interaction and secure information sharing between threat assessment professionals in all sectors of society. It is widely known that holding closed and secretive information systems tend to foster higher risk levels. I would like to see the topic of information sharing versus confidentiality and the ‘safety trumps privacy’ statement discussed more often when international experts come together. Especially in our post-modern society where the whole concept of privacy seems to be rapidly changing, and stands against the global security and protection challenges we are faced with, this certainly is a relevant and important issue.

Historically AETAP has been a strong proponent of international collaboration with our sister organizations in Canada, the United States and Australia-Asia. It is therefore our honor to host the official international board meeting in Vienna, before the opening of the conference. Accreditation of threat assessment professionals will be one of the most important topics to be discussed. AETAP will support a system of accreditation and education that would make global registration and collaboration possible.

On behalf of the board of AETAP, a warm welcome to threat assessment professionals from all over the world. With enthusiasm we are looking forward to meeting in Vienna in April 2013.

Australiasian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Conference Recap Message from President Dr. Lisa Warren

2012 was the 2nd annual conference for AATAP. The conference was generously hosted by Microsoft Asia in downtown Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra River. We had close to 50 delegates from around Australia and New Zealand. All said they enjoyed the conference content, the delicious catering (the way to an expert is through their stomach) and kicking up our heels in the aptly named World Bar.

A highlight of the conference was our keynote presentation by Professor Stephen Hart who joined us from Canada. Stephen spoke on several critical issues in modern threat management. Not surprisingly, his insights provided excellent food for thought and generated some excellent discussion.

Another highlight was our other keynote by Professor Paul Mullen. Always the consummate educator and entertainer, Paul challenged our thinking about homicides and massacres. From self-generated mass murder to acts of global terrorism, we heard Paul’s insights into the role threat management and the technologies of contemporary risk assessments in these extreme events. We all benefitted from thinking about our discipline as it applies to those who cause mild fear and annoyance through to those who wreak havoc.

The other presenters in the conference provided a diversity of talent. Dr. Grant Lester enthralled with his enthusiastic look at persistent complainers and the querulous, Dr. Michele Pathé fuelled great interest in the role mental health services can play in dealing with people who harass politicians, and Michael Davis took us on a tour of the similarities in thinking of stalkers and sex offenders. Dr. Jennifer McCarthy explained the application of the problem behaviour model to clinical practice and Geoff Brown explored challenges in managing workplace violence. Wayne Tollemache opened our eyes to the role of threat management in background personal selection and Dr. Troy McEwan reviewed screening tools in frontline threat assessment. Dr. Rachel MacKenzie gave our final presentation for the conference by providing some extraordinary insights into the experiences of stalking victims.

Please mark your calendars for the 13th – 15th November 2013. We are in full swing preparing for our 3rd Annual conference. This year our focus will be on multidisciplinary threat management. The conference will be held on November 14 and 15 with a pre-conference workshop on November 13th. We hope to see you there and extend a special warm welcome to members of AETAP, ATAP and CATAP.

 

Product Updates

Release Date Announced for the PATRIARCH

Honor-related violence can be defined as any actual, attempted or threatened physical harm that is motivated, at least in part, by honor. This definition includes acts of forced or coerced marriage that create duress for at least one of the parties. In this context the victims are most commonly females (e.g., the intimate partners or daughters of the perpetrator) who have been targeted due to the perception that they have brought dishonor upon perpetrators or their families and communities. However, males may also be targets due directly to their own sexual behavior or orientation, or indirectly through association with females (e.g., dating or protecting them).

Honor-related violence is thought to be an underreported problem, but once cases are identified, those working with vulnerable victims and perpetrators are currently without guidelines for assessing and managing risk in these cases. The PATRIARCH, coauthored by violence risk experts Drs. Henrik Belfrage, Randall Kropp, and Stephen Hart, is the first published structured professional guideline for assessing and managing risk for honor-based violence. The PATRIARCH administration procedure comprises five steps. In Step 1, PATRIARCH users gather and document basic case information. In Step 2, evaluators code the presence, both in the past and recently, of the 15 specific factors. In Step 3, evaluators identify and describe the most likely scenarios of future honor-based violence. In Step 4, evaluators recommend strategies for managing honor violence risk in light of the factors present in the case. Finally, in Step 5, evaluators document their judgments regarding overall risk in the case.

First developed in Sweden, version one of the PATRIARCH has existed for three years and has been pilot tested with the Swedish National Police. The English version of the PATRIARCH currently exists in draft form, and the completed versions of the manual and worksheet are expected to be available by in Spring 2013. Information about obtaining the PATRIARCH and related training opportunities can be found through ProActive ReSolutions Inc. (see: www.proactive-resolutions.com).

 

Special Announcements

Implementation Support: Licensing Agreements

The importance of supporting the implementation of knowledge and skills learned in threat assessment and risk management training into practice has become increasingly apparent to us over the years. ProActive ReSolutions provides licensing agreements for the use of our structured professional judgment manuals and worksheets (e.g., HCR-20, SARA, B-SAFER, SAM, SVR-20, RSVP). The licensing agreement is particularly appropriate for large workplaces that use structured professional judgment guidelines regularly (e.g., police departments, forensic hospitals, post secondary institutions). The licensing agreement offers the following advantages: 1) manuals and worksheets are available for use by an unlimited number of employees and for an unlimited number usages in paper or electronic form, 2) manuals and worksheets can be customized, translated, modified or revised to increase the usefulness to staff, and, 3) paper and electronic forms and databases can be developed that incorporate the manuals and worksheets. An added advantage is that any updates, revisions, or new version of the manuals and worksheets will be made available for use during your license agreement. The purpose of the licensing agreement is to make the manuals and worksheets as accessible and affordable as possible to help support implementation of threat assessment and risk management into practice.

 

Upcoming Events

Association of European Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

April 24-26, 2013
Vienna, Austria
Learn more

Foundation Threat Assessment and Risk Management Workshop
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

April 29-May 3, 2013
Vancouver, British Columbia
Learn more

Advanced Threat Assessment and Risk Management Workshop
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

April 29-May 3, 2013
Vancouver, British Columbia
Learn more

Foundational Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop

ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

May 21-24, 2013
Toronto, Ontario
Learn more

Advanced Violence Risk Assessment and Management Workshop

ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

May 27-31, 2013
Toronto, Ontario
Learn more

Multi-level Guidelines Training
Simon Fraser University

May 27-29, 2013
Ottawa, Ontario
Learn more

Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

August 13-16, 2013
Anaheim, California
Learn more

Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

October 26-30, 2013
Banff, Alberta
Learn more

Australasian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals
Annual Conference

November 14-16, 2013
Melbourne, Australia

 

Contribute

We welcome ideas for contributions from all readers.

E-mail your suggestions to the editor (kwatt@proactive-resolutions.com)
or associate editor (rkropp@proactive-resolutions.com)
.

Provide Feedback

Let us know what you like, what you want to read more about, or what you hope to see in the future.

Email your feedback to the editor (kwatt@proactive-resolutions.com) or associate editor (rkropp@proactive-resolutions.com).

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EDITORIAL BOARD

Henrik Belfrage
Mid Sweden University

Keith Hammond
Vancouver Police Department / President, CATAP

Stephen D. Hart
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

David James
Fixated Threat Assessment Centre

P. Randall Kropp
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.

J. Reid Meloy
Forensis, Inc.

Kris Mohandie
Operational Consulting International, Inc.

John Monahan
University of Virginia

James R. P. Ogloff
Monash University

Mario Scalora
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Glenn Sheil
Ontario Provincial Police

Lorraine Sheridan
Heriot Watt University

Rachel Solov
San Diego County / President, ATAP

Bram van der Meer
Black Swan Forensics / President, AETAP

Kelly A. Watt
ProActive ReSolutions Inc.