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‘96% of mass attacks have red flags’: Program will help to monitor C.O. online threats

(Update: Adding video, comments from United Way and Victims Assistance)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- There's a new effort on the High Desert to avert tragedies like the August shooting at Bend's Eastside Safeway, focusing on monitoring online threats.

Deschutes County commissioners recently approved a $60,000 grant to monitor and report on online threats. The United Way of Central Oregon and county District Attorney's Office Victims Assistance program applied for the funding.

The monitoring program is in coordination with Safer Schools Together of Bellingham, Washington, which already contracts with Bend-La Pine Schools for similar reporting about threats involving schools.

Victims Assistance Program Manager Ashley Beatty said Wednesday, "For example, if it's a student -- maybe there's something we can do to support them and make them feel more connected with their community."

Safer Schools Together is an international leader in violence prevention and intervention. 

"A lot of what the analysts are seeing are people potentially posting photos with weapons, people talking about potential suicide ideation," Beatty said. "You know, health concerns -- the whole goal is to wrap around those people and provide support." 

Safer Schools Together Chief Executive Officer Theresa Campbell said that "in 96% of mass attacks, the individual gives off red flags -- signs they're planning to do something."

United Way of Central Oregon Interim Executive Director Whitney Swander explained how the funding will be used. 

"About 75% of the grant we received is going directly to the social media monitoring contract, which was kind of the missing piece we had in our community to provide ongoing services," Swander said. "The remainder of the funds is to fed up to United Way."

The proactive online management comes as a result of the Eastside Safeway shooting. Immediately, following the shooting that left the shooter and two others dead, the gunman's manifesto was found online. 

"What this grant did is allow us to expand that to all the school districts, covering the whole county and to also apply that to the community at large," Beatty added.

Swander said, "We recognize the need for ongoing social media monitoring, following mass violence events, with the best practice. There was an opportunity to apply for some funding from the Portland Opportunity and Industrialization Center for a capacity-building grant."

"Following the really tragic shooting that occurred at the Eastside Safeway in late August, the United Way of Central Oregon was connected with Deschutes County (Victims) Assistance to see what we could do," she added.

Campbell said the behavioral threat analysts are looking for individuals posting cries for help.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics
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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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