DA: Chesco child abuse reports spike in 2015

ChildAbuseWEST CHESTER — Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said Wednesday that reports of child abuse in Chester County shot up from 414 in 2014 to 1306 in 2015. Hogan said he expected the number to rise in 2016, in addition.

Three factors, Hogan said, appear to be driving the increase.

“The explosive growth in child abuse reports has been caused by three main factors,” Hogan said. “First, after the  conviction  of  Jerry  Sandusky in the high-profile Penn State case, overall awareness and sensitivity to child abuse has increased. Second,  changes to Pennsylvania  law have  expanded  the types of incidents and categories of people that are required to report  child  abuse. Third, the District Attorney’s Office, with the support  of  the  Chester  County Commissioners, has increased the focus on child abuse, leading to more cases.”

With tougher laws — and reporting requirements for those who suspect abuse — Hogan said his colleagues around the state are seeing similar increases and projected that Chester County would see somewhere between 1,700 and 1,800 reports this year.

“I have talked with my colleagues around Pennsylvania,” Hogan said. “They also are seeing tremendous growth in the number of child abuse cases. In order to keep protecting children, we are going to have to devote more law enforcement resources to child abuse cases. This will require more investigators and prosecutors, but that is a small price to pay for the good of our children.”

Even with tougher laws, some of the increase stems from a renewed focus on rooting out abuse cases.

“Using a multi-disciplinary approach, the Chester County Children’s Advocacy Center has been extremely successful at uncovering  and  prosecuting more child abuse cases,” said Deputy District Attorney Deborah Ryan, the head of the DA’s Child Abuse Unit. “We have outstanding investigators, health care  professionals, and social service providers who work together to protect these children  and pursue these predators.”

More dedicated manpower from the county also appears to be making a difference.

“In 2011, the Chester County Detectives had one sergeant and one detective assigned to child abuse cases,” said Kevin Dykes, Chief of the Chester County Detectives. “In 2012, anticipating the rise in child abuse cases, District Attorney Hogan re-assigned a second detective to child abuse from other duties.  In 2014, with the support  of  the  Chester  County  Commissioners,  another  detective  was added, giving us one sergeant and three full-time detectives working child abuse. Even with this increased staffing, our detectives and prosecutors are working incredibly hard with  local police just to keep up with the case load.  They know that they cannot let up even for a second, because a child could be hurt by  any delay.”

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