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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.

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