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Understanding the Six Stages of Violent Crime- How To Disrupt Prevent And Respond

Updated: May 2

Dissecting the Six Stages of Violent Crime: Strategies for Disruption, Prevention, and Response

Violent crime perpetrators often follow a distinct sequence of stages, each contributing to the overall dynamics and outcome of the event. Understanding these stages can provide valuable insights into prevention, intervention, and response strategies.

While the first three stages may not always occur in a linear fashion, understanding their interplay can provide crucial insights for prevention, intervention, and response strategies.

Understanding the Six Stages of Violent Crime- How To Disrupt Prevent And Respond
Understanding the Six Stages of Violent Crime- How To Disrupt Prevent And Respond

Here, we delve into the six stages of violent crime: Intent, Interview, Positioning, Attack, Reaction, and Aftermath.


The first stage of any violent crime begins with the perpetrator's intent. This involves the initial decision to commit the crime, driven by various factors such as personal grievances, financial motives, or ideological beliefs. Intent may manifest as premeditated planning or emerge impulsively in response to immediate circumstances.


During the interview stage, perpetrators often engage in preliminary interactions with their potential victims. These interactions serve to assess the suitability of the target, identify vulnerabilities, and establish a sense of control or rapport. The interview may involve subtle probing questions, casual conversation, or manipulative tactics aimed at gaining trust or compliance.


Positioning refers to the strategic placement of the perpetrator in relation to the victim(s) to facilitate the execution of the crime. This stage may involve physical maneuvering to gain proximity or control, as well as the manipulation of environmental factors to limit escape routes or attract less attention from bystanders.


The attack stage marks the culmination of the perpetrator's efforts, characterized by the initiation of physical violence or coercion against the victim(s). This may involve the use of weapons, verbal threats, or physical force to achieve the perpetrator's objectives, ranging from theft and assault to kidnapping or homicide.


In response to the attack, victims and bystanders may exhibit a range of reactions influenced by factors such as fear, shock, instinctual self-preservation, or trained responses. Effective reactions may involve attempts to resist, escape, seek assistance, or de-escalate the situation to minimize harm and increase chances of survival.


Following the violent encounter, both victims and perpetrators must contend with the aftermath, which may encompass physical injuries, psychological trauma, legal consequences, and societal repercussions. The aftermath stage also includes the potential for post-incident intervention, such as medical treatment, law enforcement investigation, victim support services, and community outreach efforts to address safety concerns and prevent future incidents.

How Criminals Choose Their Targets

Studies examining how criminals select their victims reveal intriguing insights into their decision-making processes. In some experiments, multiple criminals were observed as they watched crowds in video footage of public spaces. Astonishingly, the findings showed a remarkable consensus among the perpetrators, with nearly all of them singling out the same individuals as potential targets.

This phenomenon underscores the existence of certain observable cues or characteristics that draw the attention of criminals, shedding light on the complex interplay between perpetrator behavior and victim selection.

Verbal De-escalation Rarely Works With Predatorial and Opportunistic Attackers

Verbal de-escalation is a critical component of a criminal's strategy, often employed to manipulate and draw potential targets into an attack. By initiating or exacerbating conflicts through verbal aggression or manipulation tactics, criminals seek to create a chaotic and emotionally charged environment conducive to their ulterior motives.

Through skillful use of language, they may exploit vulnerabilities or provoke reactions from their targets, ultimately maneuvering them into positions where physical violence becomes more likely. Understanding the role of verbal de-escalation in criminal tactics underscores the importance of effective communication strategies in diffusing potentially dangerous situations and thwarting predatory intentions.

Pre-incident communication is a common tactic used by attackers to lure their victims into vulnerable positions or manipulate their behavior to facilitate an attack. By engaging in seemingly innocuous or persuasive conversation, attackers aim to establish a sense of trust or rapport with their targets, making it easier to exploit their vulnerabilities or manipulate their actions.

In such situations, adopting a non-confrontational approach can be crucial for self-protection. Putting up your hands and calmly assertively expressing that you cannot assist or engage further can help create a boundary and signal to the attacker that you are not receptive to their advances. This response can disrupt the attacker's plan and create an opportunity to disengage from the interaction before it escalates into a potentially dangerous situation.


Research suggests that acknowledging a potential threat can disrupt an aggressor's plan and potentially deter them from escalating the situation. A subtle glance and a nod downward with the head can communicate to the aggressor that you are aware of their presence and perceive them as a potential threat.

This non-verbal cue signals that you are prepared and vigilant, which may cause the aggressor to reconsider their actions or choose to disengage. By acknowledging the threat in a calm and non-confrontational manner, you assert your awareness and readiness while avoiding escalating the situation further.

Disrupting The Stages Of Violence

Perpetrators often operate under the assumption that their meticulously planned attack will unfold according to their expectations. However, understanding and disrupting the stages of violent crime can be pivotal in thwarting these malicious intentions and safeguarding potential victims.

By recognizing the sequential nature of violent crime and the distinct roles played by perpetrators, victims, and bystanders at each stage, individuals and communities can adopt proactive measures to mitigate risks, enhance preparedness, and promote safety and resilience in the face of violence.

Through education, awareness, and collaborative efforts, we can work towards creating safer environments and empowering individuals to effectively navigate and respond to violent encounters.

Violence Prevention and Self Defense Resources

The Center for Violence Prevention and Self Defense (CVPSD) is a non profit 501(C)(3) with a mission to stop violence by educating at-risk people and empower them with the skills needed to protect themselves by providing online and live training. 

Through workshops and seminars we educate participants about violence prevention and guide them on assessing risk factors while establishing boundaries in relationships. Additionally practical self defense classes equip people with hands on skills and effective strategies to prevent and intervene in cases of assault. CVPSD reaches individuals and communities through partnerships with schools and other nonprofits, community groups, as well as classes for the public.


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