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August 28, 2014, 3:09 am

City breaks ground on victim help center

Police and city officials broke ground on a new special victim’s center on Friday in Hunting Park, which will allow victims, their advocates, the police and prosecutors to come together at one location to investigate criminal allegations involving children.

“This co-location facility is critical to coordinating crime response strategies across the City of Philadelphia,” said Mayor Michael Nutter, one of several officials on hand for a ceremonial groundbreaking. “Bringing together these different agencies that share the same goal, to support and protect the victims of sexual abuse, will further enhance the efficiency of investigations and the efficacy of services provided to victims.”

The facility, at 300 E. Hunting Park Ave., will bring together the police department’s Special Victim Unit, the city’s Department of Human Services Sexual Abuse Investigations Unit, Philadelphia Children’s Alliance and the district attorney’s office.

Plans include a renovation and expansion, adding to the 30,000 square-foot building on the site. A 10,000 square foot addition will be added. The expanded space will feature a new, landscaped courtyard and a parking lot for approximately 140 vehicles. Once completed, the facility will have two entrances with police and district attorney’s sharing one, and DHS and PCA sharing another.

Officials expect the building to be done early next year.

At the moment, victim services are spread over four buildings in Center City.

The Philadelphia Children’s Alliance helps police and attorneys interview victims of sexual abuse without re-traumatizing them. They operate in a small facility near City Hall. The new building will give them more space.

“Our dream is truly becoming a reality today as we break ground on this remarkable facility,” said Chris Kirchner, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance. “This co-located facility will be a testament to how much the City of Philadelphia cares about its kids, and how child victims of sexual abuse deserve the best response when they have the courage to share what happened to them.”

With DHS officials also in the building, investigations should go more smoothly.

“We are thrilled to be breaking ground on this co-location facility that will enable DHS and our partner agencies to provide better care and services to children who have been sexually abused,” said DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose. “The thoughtful design of the center will allow us to lessen the trauma of the investigative process so victims will no longer have to repeatedly relive the events of their assault”

Police and prosecutors lauded the new facility too.

“We have to do everything we possibly can to help victims of sexual abuse,” said Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross. “The process of coming forward will always be difficult, but we [the Police], DHS and our advocate partners can work as a system to treat everyone with compassion.”

This is not only an extremely important day, it is very long overdue,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “For over 20 years now the district attorney’s office has been working with the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance to make this day a reality.”