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Comparison of Email Versus Letter Threat Contacts Toward Members of the United States Congress

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume: 52 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 1142-1147
Katherine A. Schoeneman-Morris M.A.; Mario J. Scalora Ph.D.; Grace H. Chang M.A.; William J. Zimmerman; Yancey Garner B.A.
Date Published
September 2007
6 pages
In order to better characterize threats in correspondence to members of the U.S. Congress, this study compared threats in 301 letters with those in 99 e-mails, which were randomly selected from the investigative files of the U.S. Capitol Police.
The findings show that letter writers were significantly more likely than e-mailers to exhibit symptoms of serious mental illness, send threatening letters to more than one target, use multiple methods of contact with a target, and engage in problematic approaches toward their targets. Letter-writers were also more likely to be older than the e-mailers, have a greater number of past criminal charges, and write longer communications. E-mailers, on the other hand, were more likely to show signs of disorganization/incoherence, include obscenities/explicit language in their correspondence, and address specific issues of government policy. There were no significant differences in letter-writers and e-mailers on the variables of threatening language and anger/agitation. The findings suggest that although e-mailers may pose a threat to their targets and all inappropriate contacts should be assessed, letter-writers pose the greater risk and should be given higher priority in the allocation of investigative resources. In order to compare letter-writers and e-mailers, the study coded information on subjects, contacts, and content/language characteristics. Subject characteristics examined included gender, age, mental illness, and criminal history. 4 tables, 1 figure, and 19 references