NJ creates office to help crime victims, break cycle of violence

The state of New Jersey now has an office specifically dedicated to serving victims of sexual, domestic, and other types of violence.

The Attorney General’s Office announced on Friday the establishment of the Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance Unit. It will bring together victim-related services and violence intervention and prevention services currently distributed across the Department of Justice and Public Safety.

“The move marks a transformative step in the way law enforcement in New Jersey addresses public safety,” the announcement said. “Until now, there has not been a single agency focused on policy, education, or the coordination and management of victim services, including victims of domestic and sexual violence. And while the state has invested in innovative violence intervention and prevention strategies, it has yet to build a dedicated team of experienced professionals to develop, lead, and grow these programs.”

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According to a March 2021 report by the National Institute of Justice, victims of violent crime have been shown to be more likely to engage in violence later.

Violence is also costly, officials note. According to national research agency Everytown, gun violence costs New Jersey $5.3 billion each year, of which $168.9 million is paid by taxpayers.

“The formation of VIVA is the culmination of the innovative work that has made New Jersey a leader in creative methods to combat violent crime and break cycles of violence,” said Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “Ensuring we have a systematic, nationwide approach to critical victim services is not only the right thing to do for people who have experienced pain and loss, but also a proven strategy for making our communities safer.”

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According to the press release, the new department will consist of four distinct components:

  • Office of Violence Intervention and Prevention to oversee community-based violence intervention programs
  • Office of Victim Support and Assistance to provide centralized leadership on victim matters
  • Takeover of the victim compensation office
  • Housing the new Office of Trials and Criminal Justice Proceedings

Patricia Teffenhart, currently senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the NJ Chamber of Commerce, will serve as executive director of the new division. Teffenhart was once executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]

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