Crimes Against Children

Sex Crimes/Child Abuse Unit

I have been working to implement this for over 10 years, but it has been met with resistance until now.  For 2.5 years in my detective career, all I worked were sex abuse cases involving children.

Heartford House is a child advocacy center, in Lafayette, that is a place where children can go to tell their story. We have a multidisciplinary team present which consists of a representative from the prosecutor’s office, the department of child services, and law enforcement. We work as a team, each doing their part, to help in the investigation and to make sure the survivor gets the assistance they need.

Our department of child services has a job that nobody envies.  Our prosecutor’s office has investigators that are working hard to assist in the process and law enforcement is there to conduct a complete investigation. First, the child is greeted by the Heartford House staff when they arrive. The child is given the opportunity to tell their story to a trained child forensic interviewer who has interviewed numerous children.  After the interview, the Heartford House staff works diligently to assist families in anyway then can. At times, that child has to be taken to a hospital for an exam and more often than not, that exam will take place in Indianapolis. This could be at ANY hour day or night.

The Numbers

741 in 2016, 685 in 2017 and 376 as of June 1, 2018, those are the number of children that were interviewed at the Heartford House for incidents, such as, witnessing a serious crime, being abused themselves, and for any type of incident where a child was involved and they need a place to tell their story.  When you have 52 weeks in a year and the normal work week is 5 days, that is more than 2 interviews a day. 1 interview per day is 1 too many. The number is increasing and that means we have to improve.

Layout

Right now, we have the Heartford House staff in one building, Department of Child and Family Services in another building, prosecutor’s investigators in another building, and law enforcement in yet another building.  When trying to schedule an interview we are going through emails, text messages, calling cell phones, calling desk phones, calling one person to see if they have seen this person or that person, or we are trying to reach someone that is out of the office.  This entire process can take hours. This is a very inefficient way of handling an already complex situation. We are talking about the safety of a child and we should be operating as efficiently as possible. These children are survivors and we have to do a better job of streamlining this process. There is no time to spare in these delicate situations.

A great model

I had a case take me to one of six child advocacy centers in Phoenix, AZ in early 2014. When we walked in I noticed the lobby was very large, it had a welcoming feeling, the staff greeted us with a smile and showed us around.  On the first floor there were two different waiting rooms that were set up like living rooms. There was nice furniture, televisions, books, games, puzzles, and stuffed animals. Both rooms were separated by a wall and both have doors. There were several warm and inviting interview rooms where children can tell their story to trained forensic interviewers.  They had a very large room where the multidisciplinary team can observe the interview being conducted. They also had an exam room where a s.a.n.e nurse could conduct a physical exam and few other rooms that were used to hold meetings.

When we were lead upstairs we were shown a small common area that had several hallways that lead in different directions with one leading to a conference/training room.  The other hallways had offices in them that were for each police agency and department of child services representative that was assigned to this unit. I talked to an officer from this unit and asked how well it worked for scheduling interviews and overall relationships and she said it was great.  Having the team working out of the same building made it much easier to schedule interviews, conduct examinations, and the overall investigation. In 2014, our Heartford House had conducted 666 interviews which was quite a bit more than this one child advocacy center in Phoenix. AZ. The model they use is working and we need to make this happen. They were willing to come to Tippecanoe County and put on a presentation about their center, but unfortunately, it never worked out.  Working side by side is the only way to be more efficient and adopting a model like they have in Phoenix, AZ. is a huge step in that direction.

I am the candidate with the most experience with these types of cases and also the candidate who continues to work them. This unit NEEDS to become a reality and I am the one that will work to make that happen.