Westchester County District Attorney
Rocah Announces Gun Safety Plan
Westchester County District Attorney Miriam E. Rocah announced a comprehensive gun safety plan following a sweeping series of state and local legislation strengthening New York’s gun safety laws in the aftermath of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings.
“As a mother of two school-aged children here in Westchester, I feel the same fear so many parents experience each day when they send their kids off to school. Recent events around the country have made it clear that we cannot let our guard down anywhere, including here in Westchester County, to keep our children and families, our teachers and first responders, our neighbors and communities safe. So today I am putting forth a five-point plan to highlight how my office is doing—and will do—everything within our power to ensure New York’s strong gun safety laws are used as effectively as possible,” DA Rocah said.
“This epidemic has become so pervasive that, for the first time in our nation’s history, gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in this country. We simply cannot accept this.”
DA Rocah’s Gun Safety Plan:
1. Getting Guns off Our Streets: There are more guns in circulation in our country than ever before. We are working to get illegal guns off our streets through:
• Coordinated operations with our law enforcement partners at the local, county, state and federal levels. The largest operation to date resulted in the seizure of more than 100 guns, including “ghost guns,” body armor and high-capacity drum magazines, silencers, ballistic vests, counterfeit police shields and significant quantities of ammunition.
• Gun buybacks like the one we had in New Rochelle last year in partnership with the New York State Attorney General and New Rochelle Police Department. We pledge to use office forfeiture funds to continue efforts in the community toward more gun buybacks. We are ready to expand our work with municipal partners immediately.
• Tracing origins of seized guns used in crimes across our communities, and launch investigations and prosecutions whenever possible.
• Intelligence and data sharing between federal, state and local law enforcement partners and analysts from our Crime Strategies Center who are embedded with High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA)’s Gun
Violence Strategy Partnership.
2. Prosecuting Gun Crimes: We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute crimes involving guns and gun violence, including violent gang cases and firearms trafficking.
• Launched the Gun & Gang Initiative in August 2021 to prevent violent crime utilizing a precision policing and prosecution model focusing on violent offenders through short- and long-term violent crime investigations, in partnership with the FBI’s Westchester Safe Streets Task Force, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Westchester County Department of Public Safety, Mount Vernon Police Department, New Rochelle Police Department and Yonkers Police Department.
• Continue our investigations into the proliferation of untraceable “ghost guns” and utilize traditional and non-traditional investigative techniques to prevent prohibited persons from possessing guns.
• Prosecute those who make threats of violence knowing how these threats terrorize and traumatize our communities.
3. Promoting Safe Firearm Storage and Red Flag Law Education: During the last 17 months, our office has proactively worked with partners across Westchester to increase community awareness about gun safety.
• Launched the Safe Storage Program, in partnership with Moms Demand Action and Westchester school districts, to help reduce the risk of school shootings and gun suicides among young people. The program provides valuable resources on gun safety to Westchester school districts, which includes sending every student home with information on the importance of keeping guns safely secured and out of the hands of children and teens. As part of the program, the countywide Be SMART virtual training focuses on increasing awareness of safe firearm storage practices and highlighting ways families can help reduce the number of child gun deaths.
• Held numerous trainings for law enforcement departments and school districts, and partnered with federal law enforcement, experts and advocacy groups to increase awareness of New York’s Red Flag Law, which allows authorities to prevent individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from possessing or purchasing guns through Extreme Risk Protection Orders (also known as ERPOs). Our trainings have already resulted in an increase in the number of ERPOs. This valuable law has now been strengthened and we will expand our efforts to ensure greater understanding and use of the Red Flag Law with health care workers, who are now covered under the law as petitioners and may apply for an ERPO, as well as youth sports organizations.
• For the first time in the history of the Office, we are now tracking the number of ERPOs sought and obtained.
• In our continuing education efforts, we will hold a community forum on gun safety at the end of June. We are also speaking to PTAs across the county on school safety starting next week with the Westchester/East Putnam PTA Spring Conference.
4. Early Intervention and Mental Health: Together with the Westchester County Department of Community Mental Health and other community partners, we will focus on diversion and treatment for first-time, non-violent misdemeanor offenders, expanding our successful Fresh Start initiative countywide this month. We are also working with our partners in the court system to launch a misdemeanor mental health court in Westchester County later this year. Data shows that treatment and early intervention prevent first-time offenders from turning into violent felons down the road.
5. Fighting Extremism: We will continue our valued partnerships with county organizations that work to combat extremism. We will continue our trainings for law enforcement to ensure they have the information they need to understand extremism when they see it. Our Crime Strategies Center will work with our law enforcement partners to monitor extremism on social media where warranted. We have also assigned one of our investigators to be embedded with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force for the first time in nearly a decade.