By Mark Grinstead, Osakis police officer

I must warn you, my article this month isn’t cheery and not comfortable for some readers, but the issue of teen violence and homicide is a continued reality and we can’t be ignorant to its existence. Having said that, there are about five preventable teen homicides a day in the United States. Five a day…150 a month…1,825 a year, all preventable with your help.

Prior to school starting this year, Chief Gulbranson and I, along with several members of the Osakis Public School Administration, attended Phil Chalmer’s Teen Violence Training in Fergus Falls. Phil has been training law enforcement and school administrators and staff nationwide about juvenile violence and homicide since 2009 and has personally interviewed over 200 teen killers, school shooters, serial killers, mass murderers, and sexual predators to develop patterns in their behavior. Phil is the author of several books on teen violence and has appeared on several television shows discussing societal and teen violence.

I had attended his training a few years prior and was prepared for his very graphic and eye-opening presentation. Besides discussing teen violence and homicide trends, a new addition to Phil’s training was our being able to speak to a murderer. During class, Phil received a live phone call from serial murderer Dellmus Colvin. Dellmus called from his Ohio State Prison where he is serving two life sentences with no possibility of parole after being convicted of killing five women while he was an over-the-road truck driver, but is rumored to have several more dozens of yet identified victims. We were allowed to ask Dellmus questions about his crimes and life and he left us all in awe as he conversed like a seemingly normal and comical person and visited with us very casually. It was very eerie hearing him talk so easily and matter-of-fact about his murders as nonchalantly as swatting a fly. He left the class speechless after his phone call concluded. Dellmus’ violence started as a teen, according to Phil’s past visits and interviews with him.

Phil discussed commonalities of teen violence through lots of statistics, facts, and current trends and explained how to recognize and prevent it from occurring. Some take-aways from his training were the warning signs of teen violence. The four most prevalent signs of teen violence and homicide based on multiple studies and research include:

  • Cruelty to animals.

  • Fascination with fires.

  • Bedwetting into adolescent years.

  • Peeping tom incidents.

Other signs to watch for are:

  • Threatening statements to harm or kill others.

  • Violent or threatening schoolwork, artwork, drawings, class projects and social media.

  • Fascination with guns, knives, swords, bombs or other deadly weapons.

  • Obsession with violent video games, music, movies and porn.

  • Keeping a journal or blog of their thoughts, threats or plans.

  • Fascination with past school shootings, especially Columbine.

  • Begin to commit petty crimes such as vandalism, arson and running away.

  • Start to dress the part of school shooters, dark clothes and trench coats.

  • May harm themselves and take part in self-abuse like cutting themselves.

  • Might be a drastic change in appearance, hair style, makeup, clothing.

Obviously, some teens might exhibit some of these less questionable behaviors, but if anyone has concerns about a teen that checks the box on a few of them, please let the school psychologist, social worker, counselor, administration or law enforcement know about it, the teen won’t necessarily get in trouble, but it might confirm what we have already observed or intervention services can be offered to them.

Phil explained that the best prevention of teen violence in schools is a uniformed school resource officer in schools and a marked squad car parked outside, and I’ve heard that from many other sources as well. The Osakis Public School has recently applied for a school resource officer grant and have already implemented several other safety measures at the school, including a strong anti-bullying policy, to keep our children safe.

The Osakis Police Department has a great relationship with the school and we stop in as much as we can to visit with the staff and students. Within the next month, we have training scheduled with the school staff regarding hard lock down training and techniques. We need every citizen’s help to keep our children and community safe, and we appreciate all your help!

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Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.