Every year, federal, state and local law enforcement officials, as well as private security firms like Hillard Heintze, intervene with thousands of individuals who demonstrate inappropriate or unusual interest in public officials, company executives and celebrities. Some of these individuals were intercepted within lethal range of a target just before they attempted an attack.
Taylor Swift understands the importance of this type of intervention all too well.
Don’t Just “Shake it Off” – Some Threats Require a Law Enforcement Response
Frank Andrew Hoover has a track record of arrests for his interactions with Swift and her family.
Last month, Hoover was arrested by the Austin, Texas Police Department after prosecutors identified emails sent by Hoover to the Swift family between May 2015 and October 2016. In this emails, he threatened the lives of Swift and her family. One chilling email Hoover wrote to Swift’s father stated, “Decided that we are going to end all the Swifts on one day because I can’t stand that virus [expletive] your daughter spread.”
Hoover has a long history of targeting Swift. Swift had a protective order in place requiring Hoover to stay 500 feet away from her due to his previous actions. Hoover stalked Swift and her family for months leading up to her October 22, 2016 concert at a Formula 1 race. On the night of the concert, Hoover allegedly followed Swift’s motorcade from the concert to the airport where she was to board a private jet with her parents.
Hoover was able to get within 25 to 50 feet of Swift’s car, according to her bodyguards. When he was approached, Hoover stated that he was there to “possibly accompany Taylor wherever she goes.” Hoover was later arrested for violating the protective order, which is a felony.
A One-Sided “Love Story”
Unfortunately, Hoover is not the only threat Swift has faced. In January, a 59-year-old New Hampshire man claimed to be Swift’s boyfriend and told police he needed a gun to protect her. Local law enforcement reported that the man showed officers text messages with a “Taylor Swift” as the recipient and asked how many states he could pass through with a concealed carry weapon. Swift’s security team was notified of the incident.
2 Questions Threat Teams Should Ask to Guide Their Approach To a Threat of Targeted Violence
At Hillard Heintze, after we have developed sufficient information that a subject of concern is deemed a threat, we provide guidance to our clients on how to handle the situation. In these cases, we attempt to identify the motive of the individual and if they have the capability to develop or act on an opportunity to attack our client. We focus on a person’s behavior rather than on statements or the severity of any mental illness.
We ask two questions when evaluating how to respond to a threat of targeted violence.
- Does the celebrity, company executive or public official have a security capability with a fully functional protective intelligence capability?
Metal detectors and bodyguards may keep people with weapons away from a protected person and deter would-be attackers from trying to approach with a weapon. However, protective intelligence — a less visible aspect of protection — consists of programs and systems aimed at identifying and preventing people with the means and interest to attack a protected person from getting close enough to mount an attack. Protective intelligence can also reduce the likelihood that an individual would decide to mount an attack.
Protective intelligence programs are based on the idea that the risk of violence is minimized if people with the interest, capacity, and willingness to mount an attack can be identified and rendered harmless.
- Does security or law enforcement have the capability to recognize attack-related warning signs before an act of violence occurs?
Attention to the individual’s motives and attack-related behaviors and to the systems (e.g., family, work, community, criminal justice, mental health, social services) that the individual is involved with are key to assessing and managing a potential threat. Warning signs of attack-related behavior include: an interest in mass murder; ideas and plans about attacking a public figure or celebrity; inquiries about law enforcement protective measures; travel patterns; attempts to breach security; recent efforts to secure a weapon; communicating an inappropriate interest in a public official or celebrity; visiting a site linked to a protectee; appearance at an event or site where a public official or figure is expected to be; or visits to these sites when no obvious reason for the subject’s appearance exists.
Building and maintaining the organizational capacity to conduct protective intelligence investigations is a key component of a comprehensive protection program to assess situations like those Taylor Swift has experienced.
In fact, it’s been proven to save lives.
 Fein, R. & Vossekuil, B. (1998). Protective Intelligence & Threat Assessment Investigations: A Guide for State and Local Law Enforcement Officials. U. S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice: Washington, D.C.