Rep. Perry Chairs Church Violence Prevention Forum | News, Sports, Jobs

US Representative Scott Perry hosts a seminar on preventing targeted violence against places of worship, held at the Life Center Ministries in Swatara Township. August 23, 2022. Dan Gleiter | [email protected]

Almost nothing was said about people arming themselves or using force to prevent and protect themselves against violent attacks on their church, synagogue or mosque.

Rather, the ideal solution is to identify and understand those who are struggling and at risk of becoming violent, and provide them with help to reduce their levels of stress, despair and anger.

It was one of the key takeaways from an event on Tuesday to discuss ways to prevent violent attacks on churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship.

The event was sponsored by U.S. Representative Scott Perry and drew hundreds of people from the vast ministries of life center Swatara Township near Harrisburg.

The audience included people from “at least three religions” and about 100 denominations, said Mike Humphrey, associate pastor at the Life Center.

The keynote presentation came from Aaron Cotkin, a social science research specialist with the US Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center.

He based much of his speech on the idea that most attacks on prominent people or places involve no prior threat.

With this in mind, the modern prevention approach focuses on identifying people who are likely to carry out a mass attack in a public space such as a church, school or business.

The main motivations for these attacks are grievances, mental illness and ideological or racial views, according to Cotkin.

However, he pointed out that most people with mental illness are not prone to violence and are more likely to experience it.

In general, people who commit acts of mass violence often have a history of mental illness, financial problems, and drug and alcohol abuse.

A major red flag, Cotkin said, involves people making others fearful of being around them. Another concerns people who visit websites that “enhance” mass violence.

The audience included many people involved in security teams at places of worship.

Cotkin urged them, religious leaders or anyone in the congregation to be sensitive to people behaving in a way that raises concerns they might become violent, and to share their concerns with security forces. order.

He cited Safe2Say Something PA as an example of a great tool for identifying people who need help and for avoiding violence.

Safe2Say, started by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro a few years ago, involves a phone app that allows people to anonymously report people who might pose a threat to themselves or others. Advice is passed on to local law enforcement.

It has helped identify people exhibiting behaviors such as bullying, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, substance abuse, depression and anxiety – all common in the history of people who commit mass violence such as school shootings, Cotkin noted.

Perry, a Republican representing Dauphin County and parts of York and Cumberland counties, said church violence “is an uncomfortable conversation, but it is a necessary conversation.”

He said he attends a small church in Franklin County where someone locks the door and sits nearby after everyone has entered.

“That’s not how you want your church to be… You want your church to be open to anyone who comes at any time. But you also recognize the reality of today,” he said.

Perry said the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning abortion rights has resulted in “Some of our local places of worship and faith are dominated by people who disagree with the decision and feel that somehow it is the fault of the church, of synagogue, mosque or temple that occurred.”

However, when later asked about the remark, Perry said he could not name any specific incidents at local churches. His spokesperson later said the lawmaker was referring to a national warning that was issued following the decision.

Local congregation members who spoke on Tuesday expressed their desire to embrace the mentally ill and desperate, and their reluctance to view them as potential threats and report them to authorities.

However, law enforcement officials in attendance urged people to report their concerns to local police, who will then assess the level of threat and take appropriate action. They pointed out that local police usually already knew people who might be close to the point of mass violence.

“I always advise people if you have a concern whether it is well founded or not… if you are concerned or concerned that this is a problem, contact your local police department. It is absolutely vital that you have a relationship with your local police department,” said York County DA Dave on Sunday.

Yet virtually everyone, including Perry, agreed that a severe shortage of mental health services can make it difficult to deliver the help touted as the ideal solution.

“There are simply not enough resources” said on Sunday, adding that 70% of those incarcerated in York County suffer from mental illness or a combination of mental illness and addiction. Despite this, they remain in prison.

“We don’t have enough processing space for them,” he said.

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