The Family Protection Division prosecutes crimes of murder, domestic violence, stalking, crimes against children, and elder abuse. The division strongly supports victims of crime and works closely with criminal justice agencies and community partners. In 2015, the division was led by Chief Valerie Summers and Assistant Chief Teresa Santana. During this time, the division received 7,680 cases for review. It prosecuted 1,742 domestic violence cases of which 433 were felonies and 1,309 were misdemeanors. In addition, there were 360 child abuse cases and 47 Internet crimes against children cases prosecuted along with charges filed in 287 elder abuse and 28 assisted living facility cases received by our office for review.
Today’s misdemeanor can be tomorrow’s homicide. That’s why the DA’s Office has specially-trained Deputy District Attorneys across the county handling misdemeanor domestic violence cases from the earliest stages. The office also prosecutes felony domestic violence committed in the county. Having the same prosecutor handle domestic violence cases from beginning to end ensures better courtroom efficiency, better perpetrator accountability, and better victim safety.
In 2015, the District Attorney’s Office continued its leadership in four “High Risk Teams” across the county. These teams were created in 2011 to improve community response and victim support in the most dangerous situations. The multi-disciplinary teams, led by the DA’s Office, consists of various local police agencies and non-governmental groups who meet regularly to connect victims with support.
The “San Diego County Domestic Violence and Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Law Enforcement Protocol” was launched last year. This is a county-wide protocol trains first responders and all professionals handling domestic violence cases so there is a coordinated community response. The District Attorney’s office dispatched Deputy District Attorneys to attend police training briefings to update law enforcement on the changes in the law as well as provide them with materials and resources on how to continue best practices in the handling of domestic violence cases.
The Elder Abuse Unit consolidated its newly formed Assisted Living Facility subunit last year by developing a working protocol with both Community Care Licensing and the local Attorney General’s office. We established a format whereby our office alternated every other month with the AG’s office in being the lead agency in responding to complaints referred by Community Care Licensing and meeting with them, the Ombudsman’s office and the Attorney General on a regular basis.
Our unit responded to numerous requests for speaking at various events in the county – both to seniors and local law enforcement. One highlight was the launch of a successful campaign called “Don’t Get Hooked” in partnership with San Diego County Board of Supervisor Dianne Jacob’s office and Adult Protective Services.
Internet Crimes Against Children
The DA’s Office is committed to aggressively prosecuting the exploitation of children on the internet. Several Deputy District Attorneys are assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, a dedicated group of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and prosecutors. The number of ICAC cases the DA’s Office filed last year nearly quadrupled from the year before. In addition to investigating and prosecuting Internet predators and offenders, the task force actively participates in outreach to schools and parents, educating the community on internet safety.