Journal Published Online: 01 September 2001
Volume 46, Issue 5

Communicated Threats and Violence Toward Public and Private Targets: Discerning Differences Among Those Who Stalk and Attack



A computation of false positive and false negative rates concerning the probability that directly communicated written or oral threats predict subsequent violent behavior yields a striking difference between “public” and “private” targets. Among private targets, communicated threats appear to increase risk, but are so common that they have little predictive value. On the other hand, public targets are unlikely to receive a direct threat from those who approach to attack. The author suggests that the most parsimonious explanation for this difference is the type, or mode of violence, that is apparent. Private targets appear to be most likely victimized by affective violence, wherein the emotionally reactive subject will immediately shove, push, punch, slap, choke, fondle, or hair pull the victim without the use of a weapon, usually in response to a perceived rejection or humiliation. Public targets are most likely to be victimized by predatory violence, which is planned, purposeful, cognitively motivated, opportunistic rather than impulsive, and often involves a firearm. Implications for risk assessment are discussed.

Author Information

Reid Meloy, JR
University of California, San Diego, CA
Pages: 3
Price: $25.00
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Stock #: JFS15122J
ISSN: 0022-1198
DOI: 10.1520/JFS15122J