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St. Joseph County, South Bend and Mishawaka police agree to continue joint Special Victims Unit

Several new SBPD officers are sworn in during 2019.
Justin Hicks
Several new SBPD officers are sworn in during 2019.

St. Joseph County’s joint Special Victims Unit is no longer shutting down at the end of this year. The city of South Bend announced a new agreement Tuesday between the South Bend, Mishawaka and county police departments to continue the unit with some modifications to alleviate staffing shortages.

The joint SVU dates back to 2003. According to a news release from the city of South Bend, it will continue to investigate and prosecute child physical and sexual abuse, child neglect and exploitation and adult sex crimes.

But the three individual police departments will handle their own investigations into matters involving domestic violence.

Under the new agreement, the South Bend Police Department will provide two officers to the unit and fund three additional positions. The Mishawaka and county police will each provide one officer, and the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office will continue to provide deputy prosecuting attorneys and support staff.

The Mishawaka Common Council formally approved the new agreement on Monday, and it is scheduled to come before the South Bend Common Council and the St. Joseph County Council in the next few weeks.

In the news release, County Sheriff Bill Redman said he is “happy to announce” the new agreement.

“The County Police Department has been preparing and is ready to take on investigation of domestic violence incidents that will now fall outside SVU scope,” Redman said. “Additionally, the creation of our domestic violence response services team earlier this year gives County Police the ability to get services and support assistance to domestic violence victims within 48 hours, if not immediately.”

County prosecutor Ken Cotter said in the release that maintaining the SUV will allow “officers from the county’s largest law enforcement agencies to collaborate in the most effective fashion.”

Back in September, the South Bend Police Department announced it was withdrawing its officers from the joint SVU and the county’s Metro Homicide Unit due to staffing shortages.

Metro Homicide dates back to 1993 but is now shutting down at the end of the year. Going forward, homicides will be investigated separately by the South Bend, Mishawaka and St. Joseph County police departments.

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Jakob Lazzaro came to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.