The Major Crimes Unit and the Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit were merged into one unit in 2018, becoming the Major Crimes Unit – Violent Crimes Section and the Major Crimes Unit – Special Victims Section.
The Sexual Assault/Child Abuse Unit (SACA) is comprised of two assistant prosecutors, one sergeant and five detectives. The Unit investigates all crimes involving sexual or physical abuse against children by adult and juvenile offenders and is involved with investigations of potential pedophiles, child pornography, and cases involving occupational/professional offenders.
The Unit was created in 1986 in response to the increased identification and reporting of crimes involving the victims of child sexual assault and child abuse. This increase was the result of educational programs in the early 1980s that provided the public with a heightened awareness of these crimes. It became evident that special investigative techniques, as well as a different investigative and prosecutorial approach were needed to successfully investigate, prosecute and care for the child victim. Each detective receives specialized training in interviewing the victims of sexual assault and physical child abuse.
In 1989, the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) approach to investigation and prosecution was implemented in Burlington County. This approach couples the detectives and prosecutors with mental health agencies, the state Department of Children and Families, and educational and medical professionals. The purpose of the MDT approach is to minimize the impact of the criminal investigation on an already traumatized child. The MDT provides both pre- and post-prosecution assistance for the child victim.
CHILD ADVOCACY CENTER
The Director of the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) of the BCPO coordinates the MDT process. The Child Advocacy Center is staffed by a director and a caseworker and provides a child-friendly atmosphere for the victim upon being introduced to the criminal justice process. All juvenile victims of first or second degree child sexual assault or physical abuse that occur in Burlington County are interviewed at this facility. The MDT approach was established to place the child victim’s interests as paramount from the inception of the investigation to ensure that the victim receives supportive care during the course of the prosecution process. The staff of the Child Advocacy Center offers these services to victims and their families regardless of whether the defendant is prosecuted criminally.
MEGAN’S LAW UNIT
The Megan’s Law Unit, consisting of one assistant prosecutor and one detective, also falls within the purview of the SACA Unit. The Megan’s Law Unit works closely with the SACA Unit and local law enforcement liaisons to monitor and track the whereabouts of convicted sexual offenders. The Megan’s Law Unit is responsible for assigning an initial “tier” designation to each registrant convicted of certain sexually related offenses by assessing their risk of re-offense under guidelines promulgated by the Attorney General and the Courts. After the Court approves a registrant’s tier designation, the Unit provides notification to law enforcement, community organizations, schools and the general public where appropriate. The Unit also prosecutes offenders charged with violating their registration and supervision requirements under Megan’s Law. Together, these three entities of the BCPO and law enforcement authorities strive to protect and help the children and citizens of Burlington County.
The SART/SANE Coordinator is responsible for the recruitment, training and supervision of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners who contract with Burlington County to provide medical forensic exams to victims of sexual assault. The coordinator is the liaison to the five participating SART (Sexual Assault Response Team) sites. Additionally, the SANE coordinator maintains chain-of-custody for all evidence, writes policies and procedures, maintains case files, communicates with law enforcement agencies, trains participating community partners and oversees the response of the Sexual Assault Response Team. The coordinator reviews each case, including response time and provides feedback to nurses on their roles as nurse examiners.
In cases of chronic sexual abuse, an exam is done if the most recent abuse has occurred within five days of the exam. The purpose of the exam is to medically assess the victim (male or female), collect forensic evidence, document injuries or findings, take forensic photographs, provide medication to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, provide counseling and referrals, maintain chain-of-custody, and testify at trial.
During 2016, the SART/SANE program was responsible for responding to 112 calls and conducting 96 forensic examinations of individuals who reported being victims of sexual assault at the five exam sites in Burlington County.