|Special Victims Unit|
Originally established in 1996 as the S.T.O.P. Unit, the Special Victims Unit (SVU) was renamed and expanded in January, 2003 under the leadership of then newly elected Prosecutor Michael Dvorak. Previously focusing exclusively on domestic violence cases, the SVU was reorganized into a model of multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary collaboration in investigation and prosecution. All St. Joseph County cases involving domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, child neglect and exploitation, and adult sex crimes are investigated and prosecuted by staff of the SVU.
This specially trained unit of the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office consists of victim advocates, law enforcement investigators, prosecutors, paralegals, and other prosecutorial support staff. Twelve detectives who are trained and experienced in domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse cases come together from the three major police departments in St. Joseph County; the South Bend Police Department, Mishawaka Police Department and the St. Joseph County Police Department, to coordinate their efforts and to concentrate on these specific crimes. They work under a Commander and Assistant Commander and along side a prosecutorial staff whose expertise is these types of crimes as well.
The SVU provides for immediate access of detectives and prosecutorial staff to one another during the investigation process, provides the prosecutorial staff the opportunity to observe and provide input during both suspect and victim interviews, and has shortened the time period between date of incident and prosecutorial review. Four victim advocates provide direct advocacy services to victims and their families helping them navigate the criminal justice process. One advocate works specifically with child victims and their families, two advocates work with domestic violence victims, and the fourth advocate, generously provided to the SVU by S-O-S of the Family Justice Center focuses on adult sexual assault victims. This multi-disciplinary approach enables victim advocates, detectives and prosecutorial staff to communicate in an effective and timely manner to improve the quality of services provided to victims of domestic violence, child physical and sexual abuse, child neglect and exploitation, and adult sex crimes in St. Joseph County