CAH Attends PA State Conference on Threat Assessment and Prevention

November 6, 2023

Pennsylvania Governor’s Office of Homeland Security hosted the 2023 ATAC Conference (Anti-Terrorist Advisory Council) in response to the increasing acts of targeted violence and mass shootings across the state. The conference took place in Wilkes-Barre, PA on Friday, October 13, 2023.

This conference shared best practices and evidence-based training on threat assessment that could potentially prevent many mass casualties. Methodologies include:

  • Identifying perpetrators’ clues and disclosures before they commit atrocities
  • Multi-disciplinary partnerships and coordination between law enforcement, mental health, education and community
  • Positive psychology approaches

Dr. Tony Beliz, Deputy Director (retired)LA County Department of Mental Health Emergency Outreach shared best practices. During his time, LA schools didn’t experience a single mass shooting because of threat prevention coordination between mental health, law enforcement and education officials and averted 25% of incidents that would have been committed by “high danger” suspects.

Eric Patterson, FBI Special Agent and Threat Management Coordinator, shared that the threat of targeted violence has evolved in the following ways over his 20 year career:

  • Younger threat actors- Less supportive anchors in the lives of threat actors
  • Increased connection through social media
  • Pandemic has produced the largest mental health crisis for juveniles and adults
  • Individuals, particularly juveniles, are suffering from a lack of identity, community and sense of purpose

SA Patterson shared the evolving solution: Community Anti-Threat Officer (CATO) program for law enforcement that will help prevent versus react to acts of violence. This provides a standardized approach to a complex problem where none existed. In PA, 12 out of 67 counties have implemented CATO for law enforcement. PA is working on a statewide strategic plan to address threat prevention.

Dr. Jack Rozel, Medical Director of UPMC Resolve Crisis Center, shared the threat assessment and training work he is doing across southwestern PA that involves coordination between law enforcement, mental health, education and community organizations. His work is funded through a seed grant from DHS and has helped avert potential tragedies. The Collaboratory Against Hate is honored to partner with him and his team to help scale his efforts across PA and other states.

Keynote Speaker, Aaron Stark delivered his personal story, “I Was Almost a School Shooter.” He described his violent and abusive upbringing that led him down a spiral of self harming, isolation and destructive behavior. It wasn’t until a friend offered him humanity, compassion and kindness that he reached a turning point and followed out a positive path. He is now a mental health and gun control advocate.

The CAH is in discussions with the Pennsylvania Threat Assessment Steering Committee (PA TASC) about potential projects and recommendations to inform a future state strategy.

Join the effort.