The Special Victims Unit was formed in January 2002. The original unit consisted of a sergeant, four sexual assault investigators, and two investigators who worked internet sex crimes and tracked registered sex offenders. In the last year, a fifth sexual assault detective was added.
During the last six years, staff turnover in the unit has been low. Five of the original investigators remain. The unit actually has two separate parts: Sexual assault which includes domestic violence detectives and the sexual exploitation unit.
The Special Victims Unit is assigned all sexual assaults that occur in Spokane. Victims range from infants to the elderly and many of the victims suffer from either mental or developmental disabilities. Unlike some units, which can suspend cases when there is no time or personnel to work them, the Special Victims Unit works all assigned cases. The Sexual Victims Unit tracks over 900 registered sex offenders. They also set up internet stings and investigate child pornography that is found on seized hard drives.
The investigators in the SVU each handle between 100 and 140 cases per year. All of the investigators are required to be Child Forensic Interview Specialists. This training is updated on a yearly basis. Many of the investigators are involved in education/training throughout the community regarding sexual assault interviewing, sexual assault investigations, and internet awareness.
The normal tenure in Washington sexual victims units is three to four years. Detectives are frequently asked why they stay in the unit so long. The answer is simple, “We do it for the victims. Every day that a sex offender is incarcerated, that is one day when they can’t create another victim.”