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After Newtown, Astorino Works to Combat Violence

The new initiative being launched is called Safe Communities, which will involve collaboration between county and local officials.

If one of Westchester's towns or cities ever has to face a tragedy on the scale of Newtown, CT, the response protocols are in place.

But they're dusty, and not always readily-available, says County Executive Robert Astorino.

The Westchester politico unveiled a new initaitve Wednesday—dubbed "Safer Communities"—that seeks to tighten and spotlight security measures throughout the county.

The Safer Communities campaign is mainly based in proactive prevention, however—identifying and stopping violence before it escalates and takes root in a local school, or other public place.

Astorino said the plan will marry county resources—specifically public safety, health and mental health departments—with individual municipality resources, like clergy, police chiefs, teachers and doctors.

And the lynchpin will be education.

"We need to tell people what is actually available now," Astorino said.

The campaign's ballasts are two community forums: a School Safety Symposium on Feb. 27 at SUNY Purchase, and a Community Violence Prevention forum on April 9 at the County Center.

The former meeting will outline a history of school-related violence, and explore how schools can prepare, and how police respond.

"What is discussed that day could save lives," Astorino said.

The latter meeting will focus on violence as a disease.

"The idea is to bring a public health approach to treating and preventing violence," said Dr. Sherlite Amler, Westchester's commissioner of health.

Astorino said the initative was born out of the overwhelming sadness he experienced when first learning about the Dec. 14 Newtown massacre, which claimed the lives of dozens of children and educators.

"I just slumped in my chair as I watched it on TV," he said, noting his mind leapt to the safety of his wife and three children.

The Westchester leader also sounded off on deeper issues, like violence in children's video games and television, and the uptick in Westchester murders over the years.

"[Safer Communities] is not a cure, it's a start," he added.

Theresa Flora February 21, 2013 at 02:52 AM
Tee: you need to ask what the relationship is between antidepressants, psychiatric/ADHD meds, and violence, mania, psychotic episodes and so on. Check the research. Bottom line (for me): it's not a gun problem. It's a mental health issue being disguised as a gun problem to force an agenda.
Tee February 21, 2013 at 02:59 AM
I'm not denying that there is a mental health problem, and I'm quite versed in the research. What I am saying is that there was a reason these individuals were put on medication in the first place, and that this underlying mental illness is likely the culprit in many of these cases - not the medicine itself.
Tom Murphy February 21, 2013 at 02:59 AM
Flora, does the rest of the developed world not have mental health issues? Is that a problem that is unique to Americans? Other countries have nuts but they have strict laws like background check to keep the nuts from getting guns.
Theresa Flora February 21, 2013 at 03:06 AM
Umm, you must live under a rock. NY has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. So does Connecticut by the way. Yes, let's make more laws. That'll protect your kids for sure. Tee: my comment about parenting had more to do with ADHD meds. Many parents demand it of their physician. It's over prescribed, and it has side effects and long term effects, as do all psychiatric meds. Used to be we could keep the psychotic in locked wards. But the bleeding hearts didn't wanna deny the insane their rights.
JJ February 21, 2013 at 09:16 AM
I agree about keeping the "nuts from getting guns" ; however the majority of the countries with strict laws usually have one or more of the following: 1. They actually enforce the laws regarding firearms and there's a heavy price to pay for a weapon's crime. 2. Some of them are actually totalitarian states which eliminates an individual's weapon ownership entirely. 3. They have a more "restricted culture" and aren't necessarily a "melting pot" like America so they don't have large elements of gangs and sub cultures that thrive off of violence (Detroit and LA comes to mind). 4. Their culture's dictate stronger family values where people actually take care of each other. 5. There's not enough individual monies to purchase sophisticated weapons and ammunition. You make some valid points but America isn't the UK, Pakistan, Japan or Fiji. It's my humble belief that the real issues are mental health, the insane Hollywood & video violence, medications and access to weapons. I enjoyed your comments.
John February 21, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Guns are not the problem.
paula ungar February 21, 2013 at 12:41 PM
Wow- The problems that are involved are not only restricting the use of buying guns- it is also a mental health is issue.. Mental health is a very important issue. Children grow up into adults . Anger and stress is part of growing up. Teenagers always know it better than adults. They strain at the authority of their parents,theyare bored,and look for things to do- all this is part of growing up- my belief is that parenting is a skill-but no one taught us how to do it.Parents have to earn a living and try hard to keep it together- there are always kids who fall through the cracks- - Parents do not always want to hear what is wrong. So it is not only guns -it is our culture. Our American way of life that we want to protect. I hope guns laws are enforced- it is step in the right direction. but it is not the only issue. Parenting and mental health are at stake also. Having been a counselor in the school sytem I know how hard it is for parents to recognize and do something about their children's problems. Unfortunelty sometimes it istoo late.Hopefully we will do something constructive for the the people who are living examples of what went wrong in Conn.,Colubine etc. We donot live in a perfect world but we need to try and improve it in every way with kindness and real understanding of how to change issues and solve them to the best of our ability.pju
JJ February 21, 2013 at 01:21 PM
@paula ungar...........I agree 100%. There are many factors and guns ARE NOT the only issue. The common denominators with all of these shootings are mental illness, medications and access to weapons. If you look at the shootings we have had in America you'll see that people (family members, friends, classmates, co-workers and neighbors) surrounding these "shooters" previously detected "mental/ behavioral issues" with them. You'll also see that NONE of those issues were reported out. Thank God some of the classmates for some of the potential attacks were posted on Face Book and reported but for the most part people tend to remain MUTE. Why? The stigma of being labeled a "snitch" that Hollywood, political correctness and certain forms of music continue to perpetuate about alerting law enforcement about a possible threat. Want a classic example? Look at the Fort Hood shootings where Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on a killing rampage. A "rampage" that he "signaled" he was going to do years before the shooting.
Racman63 February 21, 2013 at 01:25 PM
Anyone who seriously thinks that guns ARE NOT the problem should be forced to go to the Sandy Hook crime scene. Stupid, Heartless people. In every specious counter-argument to gun violence, the proponent fails to comprehend the single common denominator: The Gun Itself. There's no place in a civilized society for an armed populace. NONE.
John February 21, 2013 at 01:28 PM
No gun ever loaded itself and killed someone all on its own.
JJ February 21, 2013 at 01:44 PM
Any death; especially a child's death is tragic and that Sandy Hook shooting was beyond words. Let me ask you a question? Where is your outcry over the children who have been shot and killed in LA, Detroit or NYC? I've been reading your posts for awhile now and you have a strong opinion about this subject. I respect that but you actually don't help the anti-gun cause with your rants. Write in "substance" why you feel this way and please stop using "specific" tragic deaths as a battle flag. There are many issues contributing to gun violence but unfortunately America will NEVER be without guns because America will never be free from the insane, the criminals and the plain stupid.
Aintthatascam February 21, 2013 at 01:49 PM
@ Kevin Zawacki there are way too many guns out there for any kind of restrictions on legal gun owners to have an effect on the violence we have witnessed in the past few years. Restrictions on magazines, ammo and such, it will have no effect. We have DWI laws, and people still drive drunk. We have immigration laws, how many illegals in this country, 10-20 million? And the list goes on. People lose hope and feel the only way out is to kill themselves and possibly others with them. This whole situation is very political and very sensitive. When you consider this country's diversity, the different religions, races etc. and our population and consider how many guns are out there, I'd say we are doing pretty good BUT, you will always get that one person who "snaps" which will bring out opponents on both sides of the issue. However, as a gun owner myself, I think the owner of a gun should be responsible for that gun from the date of purchase. They should be kept in a safe and reported "stolen" within 24 hours. There are probably a lot of people out there with their rifles leaning on the wall of their coat closet, loaded, that's not good... anymore.
Aintthatascam February 21, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Nice comment. Why would you want someone to see such a gruesome sight? I'm far from heartless. After visiting the "crime scene", I'd like to look through Adam's school records, his family history so maybe, maybe, we can figure out what made him pull the trigger(s) of the guns that killed these poor kids and perhaps find a way to make sure it doesn't happen again or at least reduce the chances. Unfortunately, there are many, many alternative ways for people to kill.
Robert D February 21, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Its not a gun problem, its a mental health issue! Do u know any sane people who would just shoot someone for no reason! I dont! Case closed! Next.
Racman63 February 21, 2013 at 04:24 PM
I make no apologies for my apparent ability to apply Grammar School mathematics to the issue of gun violence. Factor out all the other variables: i.e. mental illness, violent games, violent movies, godless culture, psychotropic drugs, illegal drugs, gang violence, economic disparity, illiteracy, cultural bias, and all the other distractions proffered by the pro gun lobby and its minions... and you are left with one common denominator: The Gun itself. Until you realize this, you'll never understand where I am coming from. Never. A gun is a tool used for hunting animals for food and keeping wild animals off your ranch/farm. But not in America. In America it is a fetish sanctioned by law. And that's insane! I hope the rabbi is reading this. He gets it. I get it. And unlike many politicians, I do not believe there is any such thing as a lawful gun owner. Only inchoate gun victimizers and potential gun victims. This I cannot abide in a civilized society.
John Gruber February 21, 2013 at 05:51 PM
"In America it is a fetish sanctioned by law" Really? Because I don't think the illegally procured guns by criminals that are used in most shooting are "sanctioned by law" Until you have a way to prevent criminals from getting guns 100% of the time, I and every law abiding citizen such as myself will always have a reason to own a gun. If you would like to apply the same restrictions as handguns to all weapons, fine, but you can't stop citizens from defending themselves, and we have every right to defend ourselves with a gun if someone is able to harm us with a gun
John Gruber February 21, 2013 at 05:58 PM
Drinking and driving harms and kills thousands every year, including children, yet we still serve alcohol when we go out to eat, but we made tougher penalties for anyone who broke the existing laws, we didn't completely ban the sale of alcohol. I have every right to use a gun responsibly as someone does of drinking responsibly in a social setting. And of course, let's not forget about the PARENT who allowed her unstable son access to weapons that can kill, but let's completely ignore that and the fact the guns were STOLEN from the owner, who was not responsible but does not account for the majority of gun owners.
JJ February 21, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Once again, you do real harm to the anti-gun campaign. Calm heads NOT zealots are what's needed now. Every time you write a rant you convince the "fence sitters" to migrate to the other side of the argument. The Rabbi? He also has a right to his opinion but frankly speaking someone in an earlier blog exposed his political philosophy in the Patch already. His basic argument started off in a good direction but it's the SAME thing over & over & over & over again. So the ONLY people taking anything he says seriously now are guys like you. The both of you fail to see the "reality" of a middle road. Welcome to America; still a Nation of Rights and Responsibilities.
John Gruber February 21, 2013 at 10:00 PM
Can you hear us wayyyyyyy back there in the 1960's? because Ted Bundy and John Gacy loved rap so much right?. You ever heard of Metallica or Marilyn Manson? Go listen to them before you singularly call out rap and sound incredibly ignorant
Racman63 February 21, 2013 at 10:08 PM
The only harm I hope to inflict is to your conscience. There was a time in America when Africans and were considered to be 3/5 of a peson under the law. Because it was legal, did that make it morally right? There was a time in America when confiscation of Native peoples lands was deemed legal under the concept of preemption which included rights acquired by conquest. Because it was legal did that make it morally right? There was a time in America when women were not allowed to vote. Because it was legal did that make it morally right? Gun ownership is a fetish. Gun violence is a disease. THINK!
Theresa Flora February 21, 2013 at 10:26 PM
The partial birth abortion rabbi from Pleasantville? C'mon, can anyone take that man seriously?
Theresa Flora February 21, 2013 at 10:27 PM
How come the good rabbi's conscience doesn't bother him?
JJ February 21, 2013 at 10:30 PM
YIKES! Where did all of that come from? Running out of "gun bile" to smear on the readers? Go back to your basement and count UFO's.
John Gruber February 21, 2013 at 10:37 PM
The real problem is the people like you who compare this debate to slavery. So there's something morally wrong with owning a means to protect myself or to enjoy a hobby that families have for hundreds of years? You don't seem to understand the majority of gun violence comes from career criminals and mentally unstable people instead of registered owners. Wanna cut down gun violence? Here's an idea, stop releasing violent offenders. In the mean time, I hope those people who I just mentioned, who don't follow the law, will follow your new laws.
JJ February 21, 2013 at 10:54 PM
John............ “Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.”
Teleman February 21, 2013 at 10:59 PM
People like "rac" above are excellent for our side of the debate- he is so wacked and so factually inept, that it just makes our case that much easier. Keep going.....
Teleman February 21, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Wow, how looney can ya get? Now we bring slavery into this conversation? It's a sick bunch. Sad that they want to step on the little dead innocents to advance their socio-poltical anti-gun agenda- all the while putting common sense aside and knowing dam well that what they are doing is doing nothing to really affect the change that is needed to prevent more tragedies.
Teleman February 21, 2013 at 11:08 PM
Again, 300 million guns out there- they're not all going to just magically disappear, so wouldn't it be prudent to take that into account when looking at the facts? No instead the loons just say "no more guns" - they're either narrow minded, stupid or using the tragedy to advance their agenda- any one of those 3 choices are pathetic.
Aidan February 21, 2013 at 11:09 PM
Teleman, the left plays a screwy version of "connect the dots" ... you'll never be proficient. They're well-practiced.
Teleman February 21, 2013 at 11:10 PM
T, the anti-gunners and the libs don't want to look at the real factors behind why someone would commit these horrors- they want to advance their agenda and that's it- weather it is actually effective is not of importance to them. Look at some of the lunatic rantings on this thread.

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