New investigation reveals that NYPD's real-life sex crimes unit is a mess

Sorry, folks: it turns out that 23 seasons of Law & Order: SVU were all a lie. According to a recent report from The Appeal, the actual Special Victims Division of the New York Police Department is largely terrible at solving sex crimes or supporting victims of abuse.

Advocates, lawmakers, and four former Special Victims Division supervisors who spoke with The Appeal say the NYPD has spent years neglecting serious structural problems that have long damaged sex crimes and child abuse investigations in New York City. In multiple cases, women were assaultedand children were killed after detectives failed to appropriately investigate reports of rape or abuse. But, after a city watchdog agency released a damning report on the SVD in 2018, the situation has worsened significantly, sources say.


In 2019, a special victims detective falsely told a rape victimthat her identity would become public if she went forward with her case and the only way to avoid publicity was to close it. When the woman's alleged attacker was later arrested on burglary charges, investigators made several more errors that ultimately led to the man's release. He then attempted to rape three more women. That same year, another special victims detective falsely told a rape victim that women often lie about being raped to get back at a boyfriend or avoid being deported, then didn't collect crucial evidence or follow up on leads in her case. At a recent City Council hearing, a woman named Christine said after she was drugged and raped in September 2020, investigators closed her case without her knowledge, didn't collect video evidence or interview witnesses, tried to make her pay over $1,000 to get her hair tested for date-rape drugs, and refused to connect her to anyone that help her figure out how to pay for the test.

Internal documents also revealed that NYPD leadership continually ignores requests for better budgeting and department resources, while the least-experienced detectives keep getting assigned to SVD cases. To make matters worse, there's little incentive for promotion, so the cops who do get the sexual assault cases don't even have a good reason to do anything about it — besides, ya know, doing the right thing and solving crimes and keeping people safe, which is apparently not enough.

How the NYPD's troubled sex crimes unit is set up to fail victims [Meg O'Connor / The Appeal]

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