LIMA — If Phil Chalmers wanted Allen County law enforcement to learn one thing from his Wednesday session, it’s how to spot a potential teen killer.
“We can stop teen murder if we know who we’re looking for,” Chalmers said.
Funded by training dollars provided by Ohio Means Jobs and organized by the Allen County Sheriff’s Office, Chalmers spent the day in Allen County talking to roughly 200 representatives from local law enforcement agencies, mental health departments and school districts to go over some of the warning signs and potential triggers that can catalyze violent behavior in teenagers.
As the author of book on the topic, Chalmers covered the trends of school shootings, prevention tips, the dangerous aspects of youth culture and serial killer myths to give local law enforcement an inside look at the “whys” behind related crimes.
Chalmers explained that students who commit such crimes are often looking for notice and often find it through media attention. At the same time, the media also tends to exaggerate the number of school shootings. Chalmers, who said he only uses FBI and CDC statistics to track school shootings, said in 2019, there have been five school shootings. In comparison, CNN, which defines a school shooting as any shooting on school property, estimated 15 such shootings in the year this past May.
But by giving officers and school workers a way to identify a student with such leanings, officials have a better chance to prevent such an event in the first place. Chalmers said that it takes three to six causes to “create a killer” and then an appropriate trigger to create action. For both young men and women, the most common triggers to mass shootings and/or suicide often stem from broken relationships.
Later in the day, Chalmers also encouraged many in the crowd to be aware of and prepared for potentially dangerous situations even when off duty.
“We have to carry off-duty,” Chalmers said. “The only place I don’t carry a gun is Disney(land).”
That same mindset applies to someone’s personal property. For those who don’t own a gun, Chalmers pointed out that either a large dog or a security system can act as helpful deterrents to any who may be scouting out a house.
In a similar vein, individuals should be aware of the clues they may leave potential criminals about personal information. For example, simple decorations like the “stick figure family” often seen on the back of vehicles can reveal the number of occupants in a house, or tags on carry-on luggage may show a person’s address.
To prepare for potential emergency situations, Chalmers said everyone needs to ensure that they and their families have a plan in both their homes and when out in public. Chalmers’ recommendations include knowing exits, being aware of your surroundings and practicing drills where applicable.
“Before you start throwing lead down the hallway, know where the kids are,” Chalmers said. “If someone breaks into your house, you are the first responder.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.