About Us

The Violence Project is a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society and improving related policy and practice through research and analysis.

Our research includes a study of public mass shooters, funded by the National Institute of Justice, and an evaluation of crisis intervention and de-escalation training for law enforcement.

On behalf of cities, counties, states, federal agencies, private and non-profit organizations, we collect and analyze data, conduct needs assessments, develop new programming, evaluate existing programming, consult on internal processes and policies, and make public policy recommendations.

We are available for consulting and training in the areas of mental illness, trauma, family violence, sexual violence and child exploitation, youth violence, street gangs, cyber violence, mass shootings, and violent extremism.

Founder, Psychologist

Founder, Sociologist

Our Story

Jill and James bring almost 30 years combined teaching and research experience to The Violence Project.

Jillian Peterson, PhD, launched her career as a special investigator in New York City, researching and developing the psycho-social life histories of men facing the death penalty, which were used in their sentencing hearings. In that office she developed a saying—the worse the crime, the worse the story—and it was always true.

Since then, Jill has led large-scale research studies on mental illness and crime, school shooting prevention, and mass violence, which have received national media attention. She is a sought-after national trainer and speaker on issues related to mental illness and violence, trauma, forensic psychology, and mass violence. Jill earned her Master’s in social ecology and Doctorate in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She is also trained in restorative justice, violence mediation, crisis intervention, de-escalation, and suicide prevention. Jill is a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hamline University and the faculty director of the Center for Justice and Law.

Born and raised in England, James Densley, PhD, is Professor of Criminal Justice and first University Scholar at Metropolitan State University, part of the Minnesota State system. James first moved to the United States to teach special education in the New York City public schools. After earning his doctorate in sociology from the University of Oxford, he quickly established himself as one of the world’s leading experts on street gangs and youth violence, including cyber violence. James’ work has attracted global media attention. He is the author of two books, including the award-winning How Gangs Work (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 40 refereed articles in leading social science journals, and over 50 book chapters, essays, and other non-refereed works. Densley has been an invited or plenary speaker on three continents, including at the FBI National Academy.

Jill and James first met in 2013. Recognizing shared interests, they collaborated on research into cyber violence (published in Aggression and Violent Behavior) and group aggression (published in Current Issues in Psychology). They co-authored a chapter in an edited volume on aggression and violence, followed by op-eds for CNN and The Star Tribune.

Jill, a psychologist, and James, a sociologist, have found that by working together, they can bridge disciplinary divides and develop both a common language for understanding violence and a holistic approach to addressing it. Since launching The Violence Project in 2017, they have co-authored over a dozen op-eds, made hundreds of media appearances, delivered TEDx talks, co-presented research findings at local and national conferences, and co-facilitated countless community forums and practitioner trainings. They are best known for the study of public mass shootings and the development of a new evidence-based crisis intervention de-escalation training protocol has been delivered to practitioners across the United States.