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People + Technology = Safety

workers gathered around computer monitors working on a task

There is no doubt that technology makes our lives easier. More complicated at times, sure, but also easier and more efficient. From buying movie tickets online to researching any topic to planning a vacation or sharing photos, most of our lives have some form of digital connection.

And while technology can bring us together in ways we never imagined, it can also put up barriers to real human connection. At Social Sentinel, we believe that people + technology = the optimal solution to safety. One doesn’t replace the other, so it’s not an either/or proposition; instead, they must work together in a symbiotic fashion to keep our communities safe.

2018 was one of the deadliest years regarding school violence. It seems most of us have dismissed the idea that “it couldn’t happen here” – in fact, near our headquarters in bucolic Vermont, a shooting was averted just weeks ago. It can, and does, happen anywhere, anytime, and it is our company’s mission to leverage technology and data science to keep communities aware, informed, and poised for the prevention of violence. No one, and no thing, can do it alone

According to a study of averted school shootings by The Police Foundation in Campus Safety Magazine, “More than half (29 out of 51) of the plots studied were discovered by the shooters’ peers. Additionally, perpetrators often directly told someone of their plans/threats. In many cases, the perpetrators talked about their plans on social media.”

There is an increase in students and adults reporting behaviors that could potentially be threatening, echoing the “see something, say something” mantra. That response, as it applies to the above study, thwarted nearly 30 incidents where countless numbers of people could have been killed or injured. But what about the remaining events where the perpetrator worked quietly to plot an act of violence, only to leak it on social media? Human eyes and ears can’t see and hear everything. Where people can’t be present, technology can be.

In one school district in Bristol, CT, Greg Boulanger, the director for public safety, says there are about 33,000 posts a month that come in at the top of the Social Sentinel filtering funnel related to his district. Of those, the actual actionable posts (the ones that warrant follow up) are 0.97 per thousand.

Once delivered, this data—which requires an extraordinary level of engineering and data science—is meaningless if the recipient does nothing with the information. The tandem system of science and humanity equates to comprehensive safety. Together, they can catch the signals of harm that can easily slip through the cracks. Discovering the one bit of intel that is a credible threat can be the difference between lives lost and lives saved.

In the past year, we here at Social Sentinel have developed our data science and software to quickly and accurately process billions of data points that would otherwise be impossible to do manually. Parents and schools don’t have the time or resources to scan and process data online, and frankly, their efforts are most valuable when focused on nurturing the human connection between adults and students.

We believe that the more we advance our solution, the better the chances are of keeping people safe. We have worked around the clock to minimize the time between when a threat gets posted on social media to when a client alert is generated and delivered. We have applied countless hours to updating our Library of Harm™ terms to stay current, and the accuracy of associations between our clients and potential threats has almost no margin of error. And in 2019 we will roll out even more enhancements to strengthen the barrier of protection and awareness. Safety requires innovation. It also requires human connectivity. The cries for help are out there, and when you can’t hear them, we can.