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Astorino: How To Prevent Violence In Our Westchester Communities

Bernard Pierorazio, Yonkers School Superintendent
Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Mount Vernon
The Hon. Kathie Davidson, Supervising Judge, Family Court  Ninth Judicial District
Virginia Perez, Westchester County
Bernard Pierorazio, Yonkers School Superintendent Rev. Dr. Franklyn Richardson, Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Church, Mount Vernon The Hon. Kathie Davidson, Supervising Judge, Family Court Ninth Judicial District Virginia Perez, Westchester County Photo Credit: Contributed

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- On April 9, I brought together national and local public health and mental health experts along with about 400 civic leaders, educators, clergy, community leaders and public safety professionals to share ideas about ways to improve violence prevention efforts throughout Westchester.

The event at the Westchester County Center was the latest installment of my Safer Communities initiative that was created in response to the Newton tragedy.

It has been four months ago since that Friday, when I was driving in my car and heard the first radio news reports about the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Despair and disbelief don’t even begin to describe how America – each of us individually and as a nation - reacted to the tragedy.

Over the weekend, I found myself hugging my kids as many times as I could. And in the subsequent days, both as county executive and as a parent, my thoughts kept returning to the same question: What Can We Do?  We came together last week to try to answer that question.

Our goal was to come out with a blueprint that will make us smarter, more vigilant, and more effective when it comes to stopping senseless acts of violence – whenever and wherever there is a threat. We spoke candidly with each other. No topic was off limits. What resulted was an unscripted, honest conversation about the roots of violence in our communities and what specific actions we can take to avoid it.

The debate the country is now having over gun laws is an important one. But the conversation can’t stop there.  No matter where gun laws end up, their focus is on limiting damage, not on treating the behavior that causes violence in the first place.

There will never be a 100 percent solution to senseless acts of violence, but we can get better at prevention and success hinges on collaboration. Preventing violence is not a one-day academic exercise. It’s something we all need to live and do every day.

Whether you are parent, an educator or a health professional, I urge you to get involved in my Safer Communities initiative. Email me at ce@westchestergov.com, and we will keep you informed of future events and opportunities to learn about available resources or to contribute your expertise.

Watch County Executive Robert P. Astorino deliver his 2013 State of the County Address on Tuesday, April 23, at 7 p.m. live on www.News12.com from the County Courthouse in White Plains.

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