Home>Feature>Platkin launches new division to coordinate crime victim assistance and violence intervention

Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin. (Photo: Tim Larsen/Office of the Attorney General).

Platkin launches new division to coordinate crime victim assistance and violence intervention

Teffenhart named to lead Division of Violence Intervention and Victim

By David Wildstein, September 23 2022 2:44 pm

Launching an effort to avert future violence by focusing on the needs of crime victims and survivors of trauma, acting Attorney General Matt Platin is launching a new Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance that “marks a transformational step in how law enforcement in New Jersey approaches public safety.”

Platkin has named Patricia Teffenhart, a former executive director of the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault and one of the state’s leading advocates for crime victims, to head the new division, to be known as VIVA.

Platkin said the new division 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.”

“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,” Platkin said.  “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 new division will centralize services related to violence intervention and prevention that are scattered through multiple offices to provide a single division that coordinates victims’ services – including victims of sexual and domestic violence – as well as training programs and technical assistance to community groups.  VIVA will also advocate for policies that protect crime victims.

Gov. Phil Murphy said he was “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.”

““This new division will address the very serious needs of victims and survivors of violence,” Murphy stated.  “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.”

Platin also won plaudits from former Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg.

“Issues around domestic violence and sexual abuse have been in the forefront of almost everything I’ve tried to do in my legislative life. This is such a tremendous step forward. Violence intervention and victim resources brought together in one office with very talented leadership deserves enthusiastic support,” Weinberg said.  “I am delighted we have an (Acting) Attorney General with such compassion and understanding.”

Platkin also announced that Steven Campos, a career youth advocacy professional who works with Hudson County families with children in need of behavioral and mental health services, would serve as director of the Office of Violence Intervention and Prevention , which will be part of VIVA.   That office, OVIP,  will administer community-based violence intervention programs and create an infrastructure for violence intervention programs throughout New Jersey.

Teffenhart co-chaired the Murphy administration’s Campus Sexual Assault Task Force and played a key role in passing the Sexual Assault Survivors Protection Act of 2015.  He most recently worked for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce.

“Patricia and Steven bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and credibility as we begin to build VIVA and execute on its mandate,” Platkin stated. “It is critical that this work be led by two individuals with direct experience working with trauma survivors, crime victims, and in violence intervention, and particularly so given their collective focus on youth and domestic and sexual violence.”

Teffenhart will serve as the attorney general’s representative to the state Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Coordinating Council, Platkin announced.

In addition to OVIP, the new division will include three other units: the Office of Victim Support and Assistance which will seek to expand programs for underserved victims; the Office of Trial and Criminal Justice Process, which will expand restorative justice methods for victims involved in the criminal justice process and the courts;  and the current New Jersey Violent Crime Compensation Board.

The attorney general’s office cited a U.S. Department of Justice report suggesting that victims of violent crimes are more likely than others to take part in violence.

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