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Westchester county establishes multi-disciplinary threat assessment center to prevent targeted violence

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In a proactive move to address potential threats of targeted violence and domestic terrorism, Westchester County has inaugurated the Westchester County Threat Assessment Center (WESTAC).

This innovative initiative aims to harness the collective expertise of law enforcement, mental health professionals, social workers, school officials, and other community stakeholders to evaluate and mitigate risks before they escalate into acts of violence.

County Executive George Latimer unveiled the establishment of WESTAC during his recent State of the County address, emphasizing the imperative to identify and intervene in situations where warning signs of violence are present but remain unreported.

Latimer stated, “WESTAC’s mission is to identify or assess these potential threats and intervene before any violence occurs.”

The public is encouraged to share information with the Threat Assessment Center through various channels, including an encrypted online portal, confidential phone line, or email. However, Latimer stressed the importance of contacting 911 in cases of immediate threat.

The creation of WESTAC stems from an Executive Order issued by Governor Hochul following a tragic mass shooting incident in a Buffalo supermarket in 2022.

As part of this mandate, Westchester County has received $175,000 in state funding to support the operations of WESTAC and similar teams across New York.

Acting Public Safety Commissioner Terrance Raynor highlighted common warning signs associated with individuals who may pose a risk of targeted violence, such as escalating aggression, verbal or social media threats, and an unusual fixation on weapons or explosives. Raynor urged the public to report such behaviors to WESTAC, emphasizing the importance of community involvement in prevention efforts.

Commissioner Michael Orth of the Department of Community Mental Health underscored the role of mental health support in the threat assessment process, noting that many indicators of violence coincide with signs of emotional crisis or mental illness. Orth emphasized the importance of early intervention and support services to prevent acts of violence.

WESTAC operates in collaboration with various county departments, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions, and federal partners, reflecting a comprehensive approach to threat assessment and management.

As the center continues to evolve, additional participants are anticipated to join in the collective effort to safeguard communities against targeted violence and domestic terrorism.

The launch of WESTAC marks a significant step forward in Westchester County’s commitment to proactive risk mitigation and community safety, signaling a collaborative approach to addressing emerging threats and ensuring the well-being of all residents.

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