Fairfax County Police

Fairfax County police create unit to investigate red flag cases

Threat Assessment and Management Unit formed to prevent violence

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Fairfax County police created a new unit to better analyze and decipher threats of violence before it happens, using methods including mental health treatment and gun seizures. 

A student posting about gun violence on social media is the kind of threat the Threat Assessment and Management Unit (TAM) was created to tackle.

“We intend to interdict, we intend to prevent, we intend to divert,” Chief Kevin Davis said.

TAM will help determine if a threat detected in a social media post, phone call or conversation can be carried out by the person making it. That involves an immediate investigation to see if the person has access to weapons or bomb-making material.

“A grievance, anger and immediate accessibility to firearms are a recipe for disaster anywhere in this country,” Davis said.

The department says active violence threat events are increasing — from 30 incidents in the county a few years ago to 153 in the same time period this year.

In some cases, TAM will respond by seizing weapons using an emergency substantial risk order — often referred to as red flag laws.

The help of TAM’s mental health specialists may be all some people making threats may need.

Police expect some of the cases may not require criminal charges.

“What can we provide you? What services can we help you connect with that will ultimately stop you or prevent you from making a bad decision?” Deputy Chief Eli Cory said.

Whether there is a gun seizure, mental health treatment or both, the response will continue after the immediate threat is averted.

“The grievance doesn’t just go away overnight,” Lt. Aaron Spooner said. “So, they will be doing long-term case management, they will make sure they reach out to the service providers and make sure they are getting the services they need.”

Fairfax County police would like the new unit to grow regionally. They are inviting other Northern Virginia law enforcement leaders next week to see what they’ve set up.

The unit started working late last month and has already had a few successful cases in which they stopped possible violence, the department said.

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