NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The NYPD is trying a few new things when dealing with victims of sex crimes.
Changes range from the entire investigative process to the very first interaction victims have with officers, reports CBSN New York’s Natalie Duddridge.
Friday morning, authorities gave a first look at this brand new Special Victims facility on Center Street in lower Manhattan.
It has a waiting room designed to be a calm environment with couches, kids’ toys and relaxing music – “less of a police-like feel” before victims meet with investigators.
When victims do meet with police, instead of meeting with detectives in a loud public space, there are private and secure interview rooms.
Counseling services will also be provided. More investigators will be added, as well as staff being retrained on how to gently question victims on their own time and terms.
“We’ve added dozens of investigators,” said Deputy Chief Judith Harrison, commanding officer of the Special Victims Division. “All of our investigators receive empathy training, trauma-informed training. We’re given department-wide training to patrol officers who are often the first people to get to the scene of a sex crime.”
The changes come after the city’s department of investigation found that SVD was understaffed and ill-equipped to deal with the massive caseload.
The NYPD added 35 detectives, with 316 dedicated staff now to respond to all five boroughs.
Last year a watchdog report exposed concerns that the NYPD had lost trust of victims.
The NYPD also teamed up with Safe Horizon victim advocates to improve their traumatic experiences.
“We know sexual assault crimes can be deeply traumatic,” said Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizons. “Survivors experience terrible fear, anxiety. Worry about their safety can be overwhelming.”
The NYPD said they upgraded facilities at sites in both the Bronx and Brooklyn and are still working to improve services on Staten Island and Queens so that victims can feel comfortable coming forward.
According to a NYPD press release about the facilities, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill committed “to ensuring survivors feel the safety and support needed to come forward, bravely share their experiences, and help the NYPD bring to justice those who have committed these horrific crimes.”