By Dean Meminger
Surroundings clearly make a difference when someone has been seriously victimized and needs help.
That’s why the NYPD Special Victims Division has opened this new facility on Centre Street in Manhattan.
“What we are doing is really making an effort to get better. And everything that we have been doing has been done with the survivor in mind,” said Deputy Chief Judith Harrison.
Over the last year and a half, the Special Victims Division or SVD has undergone a major transformation, after a sharply critical report by the Department of Investigation.
Rape and sexual abuse victims had complained that they were being interviewed in old dingy offices.
Some said officers didn’t seem to take their allegations seriously.
“We made significant policy enhancements, facility improvements and restructured SVD to amplify our ability to respond effectively to survivors.” Said Police Commissioner O’Neill.
The Police Department opened renovated SVD offices in the Bronx and Brooklyn earlier this year.
Sites in Queens and Staten Island are now being remodeled, too.
The division says it has added dozens of investigators after the DOI said it was woefully understaffed. There are currently 264 officers and detectives.
“All of our investigators receive empathy training, trauma-informed training. We are giving department-wide training to patrol officers who are often the first people to get to the scene of a sex crime,” said Harrison.
Thousands of rape and other sex crimes are reported every year across the city.
“A survivor needs to know that they are in a safe place surrounded by competent dedicated professionals. And that they can share their story in a welcoming and private facility with the resources and support that they need,” said Audrey Moore, Chief of the Special Victims Bureau.
Starting on Monday, Safe Horizon advocates will work side by side with investigators at the SVD facilities in Manhattan and The Bronx.
“To answer survivors’ questions, to support them through the process. To help them get the services that they need,” said Liz Roberts, Deputy CEO of Safe Horizon.
The police department says sex crimes are greatly under-reported and it wants victims to come forward so officers can investigate their complaints. They hope these new, more welcoming offices will help.