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Welcome to the third Quarterly Newsletter from the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team. We are excited to continue to share the progress being made to better serve survivors of sexual assault in our city! In this issue, we cover the newly-released Inspector General's report on NOPD Special Victims Section, Statistics on increased reporting of Sexual Assault, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Grant, our very first SART Prevention Summit, and Detective-of-the-Month for May and June, 2016!
Overview of Inspector General's Report on NOPD Special Victims Section

In 2014 the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report on the NOPD sex crimes unit that indicated that many cases of sexual assault went without documentation, evidence, or investigation; that there were cases with no supervisory oversight; and that cases were mis-classified as lesser offenses. This investigation propelled the NOPD into sweeping reforms that included:
  • New policies and guidance to change how sex crime detectives document and investigate crimes
  • Replaced the leadership of the unit from the top down
  • Assembled a task force to review and investigate each case that was identified in the report as deficient
  • Created a new system of coding sex offender checks separately from incidents of sex crimes to ensure clarity in documentation
  • Moved the Sex Crimes Unit to the New Orleans Family Justice Center and increased staffing in the unit, providing detectives with additional resources to connect to victims
  • Asked the Civil Service Commission to approve a 5% special rate of pay for Special Victims Section detectives, to enhance retention within the unit 
On June 22, 2016 the OIG an audit report to assess progress being made. Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said that the "NOPD sex crimes unit shows remarkable turnaround" when announcing the results of the report. The report states that NOPD: 
  • Sex crimes investigators and supervisors properly documented and reviewed every rape reported over a three-month time frame last year 
  • Supervisors reviewed and/or approved 100 percent of the case files in accordance with NOPD policies and procedures
  • Classified all calls for service in accordance with the Louisiana Revised Statutes
  • Reclassified (upgraded) 78 calls for service (50.6 percent) to an attempted or actual rape
  • Did not reclassify any allegations of rape to a miscellaneous offense
The New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team is very proud of the work accomplished by our partners in the NOPD. Though there is much more work to be done, and the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Units remain severely understaffed, this represents a huge step forward.
Statistics on Increased Reporting of Sexual Assault

The New Orleans Police Department is responding to a significant increase in the number of reported sexual assaults in New Orleans. Tania Tetlow, Tulane Law School professor and chairwoman of the Mayor's Sexual Violence Advisory Committee, asserts that the "increase in reported sexual assaults shows a growing confidence in NOPD." 

But Tetlow also said "the sex crimes detectives are still above the 26 new cases per detective, per year, recommended by the committee."

Currently, the sex crimes division only has 8 detectives, covering shifts 24/7. With the reported sexual assaults for 2016 year-to-date (501), that averages to 62.6 cases per detective. This is already more than twice the number of recommended cases annually. In fact, if one takes the projected number of cases for 2016 (1,325) the sex crimes unit would need to be staffed at 50 detectives to follow the advisory committee's recommendations, which are based on national "Best Practice" standards.

Additionally, Amanda Tonkovich, coordinator for the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team, asks us to consider the uniqueness of our sex crimes division. She says, "Our sex crimes detectives take a crime from start to finish, where may other cities assign the initial work to a district detective and they [sex crimes detectives] just do the follow-up investigation."

In order to continue to build on the community's growing confidence in NOPD and to further enhance trust between law enforcement and those they serve, it is imperative that sex crimes is adequately staffed and fully trained to compassionately and constitutionally serve survivors of sexual assault. 
Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Grant

In the Summer 2014, the New Orleans Police Department applied for a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant, which was awarded in March 2015. The grant award, in the amount of $1,058,214.00, is part of a larger, $41M grant program intended to support community-based response to ending the rape kit backlog nationwide. This program is administered by the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance.

New Orleans was one of 20 jurisdictions across the country to receive a SAKI grant in 2015. The goal of this program is to "get more kits tested, improve investigations, enhance prosecutions, and develop victim-centered protocols for interviewing and notifying victims."

"We are making great progress in building strong systems of accountability that will give the department the tools we need to ensure justice for victims of sexual assault,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison. “These federal dollars will help provide additional staffing, resources and new technology to better track and manage testing of sexual assault kits and ensure that we never develop a backlog again.”

NOPD inventoried the number of un-submitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) in the jurisdiction, and through a collaboration with the New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team, they are working to upgrade their evidence tracking system and analyze and develop new policies, procedures and protocols for SAK submissions/tracking, investigations, and prosecutions.

Of the 192 un-tested SAKs that fall under the SAKI grant guidelines (un-tested SAKs in evidence as of April 2015), the first batch of 25 SAKs has been sent to a private contractor for testing. Their goal is to have the remaining SAKs tested by the end of 2016.
SART Prevention Summit 

The New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team is excited to host the 1st Annual Sexual Assault Prevention Summit and Community Resource Fair: Protecting Our Children. This event will take place on Tuesday August 9 from 8:30am - 12:30pm and will focus on prevention, intervention, and safety for children. There will be breakout sessions and resources for both youth and adults. 2.5 CEUs will be offered to social workers. You can register here
Detective of the Month
Detective Bianca Deirish, Child Abuse Unit, May 2016
Detective Claudia Bruce, Sex Crimes Unit, June 2016
Information for Survivors
If you are an adult in the Greater New Orleans Area and have been sexually assaulted, go to:
(SAFE Center) Emergency Department
University Medical Center
2001 Tulane Avenue New Orleans
(504) 702-4542

For children who have been sexually abused, go to:
Audrey Hepburn CARE Center
Children's Hospital
200 Henry Clay Avenue, New Orleans 70118
(504) 896-9237
Contact NOLA SART:
24/7 crisis line: 504-866-9554

Survivor Handbook

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New Orleans Sexual Assault Response Team · 701 Loyola Ave., Suite 201 · New Orleans, LA 70113 · USA

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