The San Bernardino County district attorney’s office announced the formation Tuesday, Dec. 11, of a specialized prosecution unit that will focus on serious crimes against children.
The Major Crimes Against Children Unit will allow prosecutors to better coordinate their efforts with physicians and counselors and seek more resources to fight those crimes, District Attorney Michael Ramos said.
“We’re doing a good job, but this is really going to enhance how we handle these cases,” Ramos said.
Those crimes have traditionally been handled as part of the district attorney’s Family Violence Unit, but six prosecutors — one for each regional office — from that division are now part of the new unit.
Those prosecutors will handle what Ramos described as some of the most horrendous crimes he’s seen.
“We’re talking about our children that are burned, tortured, (suffer) broken bones, head trauma,” Ramos said.
These are also some of the most difficult cases to prosecute because there are often no witnesses and some victims — some too young to speak — are unable to testify, he said.
He said it’s critical that prosecutors receive special training in handling such cases and work closely with law enforcement officers and physicians who examine the victims.
That includes a closer partnership with the county’s Children’s Assessment Center in San Bernardino, where Ramos made the announcement Tuesday and provided a tour of the facility.
The center features interview and medical examination rooms where child victims are taken for evaluation. The rooms include child-size tables and chairs, toys, crayons, animal paintings on the wall and other features to make the environment more comforting for victims.
Dr. Amy Young, associate director of the center, said the new unit will allow forensic pediatricians to better communicate with prosecutors, knowing there is someone specially assigned to the case they can contact directly throughout the investigation and prosecution.
In 2011, the district attorney’s office had 53 cases that would have fallen into the major crimes category handled by the new unit. So far this year, 32 such cases have been filed.
Some current cases that will now be part of the unit include a Barstow man charged with molesting and raping eight children over the past 25 years, including several family members. Another case involves a Fort Irwin soldier accused of abusing his 13-day-old infant resulting in 11 broken ribs, two broken legs and skull sutures.
Ramos said the new unit should send a message to those who commit crimes against children that they will be held accountable.
“You do this in this county, we’re going to take you off the street,” he said. “You will not harm our babies.”
BY IMRAN GHORI
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