The Special Victims Unit (SVU) is responsible for the investigation of sexual offenses, domestic abuse, child abuse and missing persons. The office also investigates cases involving child pornography or people that use the Internet and social media to solicit explicit photos and/or arrange sexual encounters with underage victims.
The SVU also handles all crimes committed, or suspected of being committed, by juveniles (any person 17 and under years of age). This includes apprehension and prosecution in Niagara County Family Court or the Youth Part of Supreme Court in Niagara Falls.
In some cases, SVU offers programs in lieu of prosecution. The Diversion Programs include Youth Court or the Resources for Adolescent Program (RAP). Youth Court is run for youth by youth. First time-youthful offenders under age 16, have the opportunity to have their case heard by a group of their peers, acting in all judicial capacities: prosecuting and defending attorneys, judges, bailiff and clerk.
Prior to being sworn in, youth volunteers attended a ten- week, two hour per week training course. Topics include Juvenile Law and Trial and Courtroom Etiquette. Volunteers learn how to prosecute and defend, the proper way to address the judge in the courtroom and how to make opening and closing statements. After completing training, volunteers must pass a “bar exam” and complete practicing “mock” trials.
The RAP program consists of 10 weeks of sessions that have 15–20 youth per group. These groups take place at the North Tonawanda Dept. of Youth Recreation and Parks, 500 Wheatfield Street from 3:30 -4:15 PM on Tuesday afternoons. The program is free of charge. Contact SVU for next session details.
The groups deal with issues that young people want to or need to talk about. The topics consist of Overview of Program, Abstinence Education, HIV/AIDS, STD’S, Runaway Shelters, Suicide, Criminal Behavior/Prison Experience, Domestic and Date Violence, Drugs and Alcohol Abuse, Decision Making and Bullying and Cyber bullying. The topics are presented by either professionals in the area or individuals who have experienced the topic. The program is open to any youth that are interested in learning about teen issues. Age range for the group is 12-18 years old. Due to the current COVID restrictions, the field trip to the jail was suspended. As soon as the restrictions are lifted, at the jail, the field trip will be reinstated.
The concept of “Restorative Justice” is a major theme underlining the Youth Court and the RAP program: rather than punish, the goal is rehabilitative and helping those accused of minor crimes to become better and more empowered citizens.
All North Tonawanda Police Department programs are free of charge to residents of the City of North Tonawanda.
Both Lt. Det. Day and Det. Herbert are available to speak with parents who are in distress. If you need someone to talk to about your child's behavior, please contact SVU at (716) 692-4317.
SVU also runs the “Caring for Kids” Program alongside the NTPBA. Families that are selected, have the opportunity to shop at Wal-Mart for a new outfit, winter coat, shoes, and a toy. Held every November, the program's main service event pairs over 105 underprivileged and at-risk children with a law enforcement officer for a shopping spree leading up to Christmas. The hope is that this experience of shopping alongside North Tonawanda’s finest will instill in each child a positive experience with law enforcement which will carry into their adolescence and adulthood. Applications for the “Shop with a Cop” shopping program are not available
to the public. At risk and underprivileged children are identified by referral from school resource officers, school guidance counselors or teachers.