On a beautiful sunny day, the pleasant environment at YouTube headquarters was changed forever when a woman entered the courtyard and suddenly opened fire on employees enjoying their lunch break, wounding three and then taking her own life. This shooting unfolded in real time to the rest of the world due to the instant accessibility on social media and cable news today. Many of us don’t even question the ability to see what is happening in the world almost immediately, yet the media definitely shapes our perceptions and beliefs more than we realize.

How does the media influence our thinking? There are many ways, but the one we will address here is how it influences our perception of crime and violence in our society. Media can magnify threats and make threat levels seem much higher than they actually are. Recent FBI statistics show that murders are actually DOWN from what they were in the 1980’s. If research shows this, why do we think our culture is more violent than ever?

A notable reason lies in the reality of all the changes in technology in recent years and how much that has transformed the way Americans receive the news. It used to take much longer for people to find out what was happening in the news and now we are able to access information within minutes of the event. This automatically creates “vicarious” victims who feel unsafe and threatened just by being able to watch the shooting and its aftermath unfold. A recent Pew Research Center survey in 2016 found that 57% of US citizens said that crime has increased since 2008, despite the significant drop in violent and property crime rates of that period. Much of this is due to the public’s perception of crime through instant news.

Unfortunately even though crime itself has dropped significantly—mass shootings have increased. This has also heightened the public’s fear and anxiety. In 2017, the Secret Service found that there had been a total of 28 mass attacks that year. The number of murders is down, but the amount of public mass attacks has gone up. Are mass shootings and attacks a problem? Without question. Even one is too many. However, to keep things in perspective, in 2017 the 28 attacks and 144 people who died were less than 1% of the total number of homicides in the United States.

So what can we do? Stratfor Worldview has a number of solutions the public can easily follow. First of all, public officials and security managers of businesses, schools, churches and other community spaces must continue to train people in what to do in the instance of a mass attack. Another solution is to teach Avoid-Deny-Defend, which has been shown to be very effective in mass attack situations. Officers and leaders must also increase their efforts to proactively detect and identify potential attackers ahead of time. Finally, the public can learn what Stop the Bleed trauma treatment is and how to implement it. It has been extremely effective in saving victim’s lives.

Despite the increase of mass shootings and attacks in recent years, the amount of incidents is still low overall. A very small percentage of the public will ever be exposed to events like these. Even still, it is extremely important for the public to be prepared, yet not fearful. Education, training and awareness all help people respond with preparedness and confidence instead of crippling fear (Stratfor 2014).

Atlas Aegis provides a number of risk management resources and also partners with public officials and security managers to train, educate and equip their communities so they can respond quickly and help those who need it.