NJ creates division to help crime victims, break cycle of violence
The state of New Jersey now has an office specifically devoted to servicing victims of sexual, domestic and other types of violence.
The Attorney General's Office on Friday announced the creation of the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance. It'll bring together victim-related services and violence intervention and prevention services that are currently dispersed throughout the Department of Law and Public Safety.
"The move marks a transformational step in how law enforcement in New Jersey approaches public safety," the announcement said. "Until now, there was no single office focused on policy, training, or coordination and management of victims’ 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 create a dedicated team of experienced professionals to develop, guide, and expand these programs."
According to a March 2021 report from the National Institute of Justice, violent crime victims have been shown to be more likely to later engage in violence.
Violence is also costly, officials note. According to the national research institution Everytown, gun violence costs New Jersey $5.3 billion each year, of which $168.9 million is paid by taxpayers.
“The creation of VIVA is the culmination of the innovative work that has made New Jersey a leader in creative methods of combating violent crime and disrupting cycles of violence,” said Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “Ensuring that we have a systematic, statewide approach for critical victim services is not only the right thing to do for people who have suffered pain and loss, but it is also a proven strategy for making our communities safer."
According to the release, the new division will have 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 issues
- Take over the Victims of Crime Compensation Office
- House the new Office of Trial and Criminal Justice Process
Patricia Teffenhart, who is currently the senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the NJ Chamber of Commerce, will serve as the executive director of the new division. Teffenhart once served as the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault.