Friday, November 30, 2001
Child Abuse Prosecution Unit Will Head Off More Serious Crimes—Delgadillo
By KIMBERLY EDDS, Staff Writer
City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said yesterday the creation of his new division to prosecute misdemeanor child abuse cases will help prevent more serious crimes from happening in the future.
“If we catch the cycle of violence early we can prevent more serious child abuse offenses from occurring,” Delgadillo said.
The Child Abuse Prosecution unit, which will partner with the county’s Department of Children and Family Services, is charged with prosecuting child annoyance, indecent exposure, peeping toms and other misdemeanor offenses involving child abuse.
Six attorneys and nine staff members will make up the new unit, Delgadillo spokeswoman Mary McGuire said.
More than 142,000 incidents of child abuse and neglect are reported in Los Angeles County every year, with more than 57,000 of those cases occurring in the city of Los Angeles, according to the Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect.
The Los Angeles Police Department refers all misdemeanor child abuse crimes to the City Attorney’s Office, Det. Jose Duran said. But city officials said there is a lapse in reporting by the DCFS, which takes between 6,000 and 8,000 calls a month, to the city attorney.
Eric Marts, DCFS acting bureau chief for the Bureau of Child Protection, denied such a lapse, saying the department is required by state law to cross-report all child abuse incidents to the law enforcement agency where the incident occurred.
The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a motion by Supervisor Michael Antonovich that requires all cases of child abuse and neglect received by the DCFS be reported to the city attorney. Previously, Delgadillo’s office received information on just five percent of all cases reported in the city of Los Angeles.
Under the new guidelines, DCFS is not required to report incidents of general neglect or cases the department has found to be false, Delgadillo spokeswoman Mary McGuire said. Out of the 57,000 reported cases, McGuire said she expected the City Attorney’s Office will receive approximately 30,000 under the reporting requirements.
Marts said the department welcomes any help it can get.
“There are going to be a number of contributions that come from working with the City Attorney’s Office,” Marts said. “I think it’s going to be helpful.”
LAPD Chief Bernard Parks said stopping the cycle of violence in the family will help stop the violence from continuing into the community.
“We look at this as a preventive measure,” Parks said.
Sheriff’s Department officials agreed that acting at the misdemeanor level can be beneficial to preventing more serious crimes before they happen.
“A misdemeanor crime may be the vehicle and the means by which the Department of Children and Family Services and the Dependency Court can attach some pretty strict sanctions on the family,” Operations Lt. Paul Jendrucko, of the Family Crimes Bureau, said. “It doesn’t have to be a felony for the Dependency Court to take some stern action.”
In addition to bringing criminal charges against child abusers, the City Attorney’s Office is also putting a hearing program in place for cases that don’t warrant criminal prosecution. The program will monitor abusive adults to make sure they are completing the requirements put on them by the DCFS to prevent further abusive activity.
Sheriff Lee Baca applauded the efforts of the City Attorney’s Office, but urged city officials to remember that when the government intervenes and takes children out of abusive families the government becomes the parent.
“This is a step in the right direction,” Baca said. “We have a lot more to do. It’s not perfect and we’re not going to pretend it is.”
“Let us remember the needs of children are continuous and when government fills that void, it must do it in the right way,” Baca said.
The new 15-member unit will cost approximately $1.5 million to be fully funded, McGuire said. Delgadillo said he is currently looking to Proposition 10 money for the majority of the unit’s funding, referring to the tobacco tax initiative approved in 1998 for use for child-oriented programs.
Delgadillo defended the expenditure, saying it was a way for the city to save money in the future by not having to deal with crimes stemming out of the abuse or even more serious child abuse incidents.
“I think that’s a small price to pay for what we’re going to prevent in the future,” Delgadillo said.
The City Attorney’s Office has already received a $40,000 grant from Verizon Wireless to provide computer equipment and for the development of computer software systems to receive and track the reports from DCFS, allowing prosecutors to access information on prior reports of abuse related to a specific child.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company