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San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr is consolidating four sections of the Special Victims Unit scattered in offices throughout the city and combining them with human trafficking investigations, which were previously handled by the Vice Crimes Unit. The newly constituted Special Victims Unit will open for business Monday, Oct. 17, in a new office on the fifth floor of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St.
The move is intended to create a synergy of skills and expertise that will lead to more streamlined and effective investigations. Expert investigators from the Domestic Violence/Elder Abuse, Juvenile, Missing Persons and Sexual Assaults sections, and the human trafficking task force will now work along side one another, exchange information and collaborate on daily case work.
Capt. Antonio Parra will continue to command the new Special Victims Unit.
“The one thread that you'll see throughout this entire investigative unit is that we are aggressively investigating those who would abuse our most vulnerable — women, children, and the elderly,” Parra said. The new collaborative approach will help police investigate multilayered crimes more effectively, he said.
“Putting these investigative units under one roof and allowing that exchange of information to take place on a daily basis will give us a better perspective, whether we are doing a street prostitution operation or investigation regarding a child abuse case,” he said.
Human trafficking investigations will benefit from the move to the Special Victims Unit, said Lt. Jason Fox, who will lead those investigations.
“The chief, Greg Suhr, wants a much broader enforcement action into human trafficking,” Fox said. “He wants us to look at the sweatshop aspect, the indentured servitude,” not just prostitution, which typically draws more public attention.
Human trafficking investigations are resource intensive and take a long time to pursue, and require police to work closely with dedicated prosecutors to build cases that catch traffickers.
Parra said that putting human trafficking investigations under the umbrella of the Special Victims Unit will provide the resources those investigations need.
“You’re going to see a more uniform approach to human trafficking investigations and enforcement,” he said.
Jason Winshell is photo editor of the Public Press. He also reports and does data analysis. The focus of his art is social documentary photography. In 2010, he was nominated for the SFMOMA SECA award. He has published a book of 45 color photographs about life in San Francisco, “Street.”
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