Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced a new division has been formed in the state Attorney General’s Office designed to prevent future violence by better addressing the needs of crime victims and trauma survivors.
Established by a directive from the Attorney General, the new Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance (VIVA) will advance a unified strategy by bringing together victim-related and violence intervention and prevention services currently dispersed throughout the Department of Law and Public Safety. VIVA will also play a lead role with respect to survivors of domestic and sexual violence, centralizing the Department’s support for this population and advancing policies on their behalf.
The move marks a transformational step in how law enforcement in New Jersey approaches public safety. 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 (the current office dedicated to victim compensation will become a component of VIVA.) 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.
“I am incredibly proud of the steps that Acting Attorney General Platkin and his office are putting into action to prevent crime in our state and help those who have been affected by it,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “This new division will address the very serious needs of victims and survivors of violence. Make no mistake, this Administration takes violence of any kind very seriously and will continue to do the necessary work to make New Jersey a stronger, fairer and safer state for all.”
“The Acting Attorney General clearly recognizes that all too often victimization spurs further crime, and that too many victims aren’t getting the acknowledgement and support they need. The decision to invest resources in tackling those problems in innovative ways shows a clear and comprehensive understanding of the challenges facing our communities,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver. “I look forward to seeing how this new Division’s work plays out and how it impacts violent crime in New Jersey.”
“The creation of VIVA is the culmination of the innovative work that has made New Jersey a leader in creative methods of combatting violent crime and disrupting cycles of violence,” said Acting Attorney General 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. Today we are making clear that the State’s approach to public safety, one done with the support of the Murphy Administration, puts community-based interventions and victim assistance alongside traditional, and essential, prosecution and policing.”
The launch of VIVA builds on steps previously taken by the administration of Governor Murphy, which has prioritized combatting sexual violence and providing support for survivors through, for example, signing legislation that expands the rights of sexual assault victims, including a requirement that victims receive a copy of their police report before it is filed with an opportunity to disagree with it, establishing sexual violence liaison officers within the New Jersey State Police and local law enforcement agencies, and mandating training every three years for county prosecutors and assistant prosecutors on investigating and responding to reports of sexual assault.
And it has been a national leader on gun violence, making an unprecedented increase in funding for anti-violence initiatives and for victims, including the largest set of investments in the state’s history for the Hospital Violence Intervention Program (HVIP) and the Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) program.