U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Research Summary: Lessons from a U.S. study revealing the critical role of 'gatekeepers' in public safety networks for countering violent extremism

NCJ Number
Date Published
5 pages

Noting that research indicates violent extremism involves a process of radicalization over time, this paper discusses the nature and development of “gatekeepers,” who are positioned to notice and refer individuals deemed at-risk of engaging in violent extremism.


As part of an ongoing study, empirical evidence indicated that peers of would-be violent extremists might be the “gatekeepers” most likely to be aware of their peers’ violence intentions; however, findings also indicated a potential and critical disconnect between those peer potential gatekeepers and local resources and services relevant to countering violent extremism (CVE). In addressing this issue, the current report promotes one possibility for bridging the divide between potential gatekeepers and CVE-relevant safety networks. Based on recent community-based crisis intervention models, this report recommends a texting-based crisis service that could be initiated and promoted for youth to seek help for their peers who might be considering violent extremist acts. Such a service preserves users’ confidentiality, thus reducing prospective users’ reluctance to access the service. Establishing such a texting-based service should include appropriate and focused marketing efforts to attract youth gatekeeper service users. Such a service can be relatively inexpensive and cost-effective if built into an existing crisis prevention phone-in hotline. In its conclusion, this report indicates that “the elegant simplicity of a technology as straightforward as texting already offers the potential to empower the critical role of gatekeepers in public safety networks for countering violent extremism.”

Date Published: January 1, 2015