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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2007
Virginia Tech tragedy headlines Washington Community Safety Summit

Olympia – Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police, will share his first-hand experiences during  the Virginia Tech shootings as one of the headline speakers at the Washington Community Safety Summit, Sept. 25-27, at the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, WA.

Flaherty will detail the lessons learned from this national tragedy that left 33 people dead on the Blacksburg, Virginia campus and provide insights into the development of multi-jurisdictional crisis response plans.

The Washington Community Safety Summit will focus on emerging trends in prevention, intervention and enforcement strategies. Attendees will learn proven approaches to work with their community as partners in providing safe and secure neighborhoods. Attorney General Rob McKenna is urging law enforcement, court officials, corrections officials, education professionals, community health and safety representatives, tribal leaders and others to participate.
 
“Our communities continue to see an increase in gang activity, drug abuse and violent crimes,” McKenna said. “Now, more than ever, law enforcement must work together to ensure community safety. I want to encourage law enforcement officials from all levels to attend this important information-sharing event.”

Earlier this month, McKenna and other national attorneys general released a report on school and campus safety conducted in response to the Virginia Tech shootings.  The report includes specific recommendations on threat assessments, information-sharing among law enforcement agencies, and crisis response planning. You can find this report at the Attorney General’s Web site: www.atg.wa.gov, under the “Protecting Youth” tab on the “School Safety” page.

Jim Hanson, an investigator from the Attorney General’s Office Homicide Investigation Tracking System (HITS) team, will present a session on missing persons emphasizing the misconceptions concerning the 24-72 hour rule before reporting a missing person, the belief that immediate police response is not needed because being missing is not a crime and the myth that missing adults will eventually turn up unharmed. 

The Attorney General’s Office has prepared a Missing Persons Toolkit that will be distributed during the summit and available for download on the Attorney General’s website.

The Attorney General’s Office will also provide a demonstration of the HITS program. This program tracks and investigates homicides and rapes.  It is the only statewide central repository for information relating to violent crimes. HITS is a national leader in developing and using computers to prevent and increase the solvability of crimes.  The program has received several grants to study trends in violent crimes.

The summit will also provide information on Washington’s sex offender registry. John Samson, Assistant Attorney General will talk about the history of the registry, new law changes and community notification. Participants will also hear about residency verification programs and prevention programs for adults and children.

With gang activity in Washington on the rise, Dave Rogers from the Criminal Justice Center for Innovation will speak to attendees about the emergence and recognition of youth gangs on reservation lands. Rogers will showcase how to recognize the signs and assess the level of activity to provide communities with an approach to diffuse gangs.

“Gang activity threatens our schools’ ability to educate our children and has taken a toll on the budgets of our communities,” McKenna said. “During the 2007 legislative session, my office proposed a bill to combat the activities of criminal gangs. The bill did not pass, but a workgroup was established to evaluate and make recommendations regarding additional legislation to combat gang-related crime in Washington. My office is involved in that workgroup and I look forward to its recommendations.”

Other notable topics during the summit include discussions of Washington’s AMBER Alert plan, Missing Persons Clearinghouse and Internet crimes.  For a detailed list of all sessions and to register for the Washington Community Safety Summit, click here and download the registration form.

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Media Contacts: J. Ryan Shannon, Media Relations Manager, (360) 753-2727

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