Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Reorganization gives Baltimore an SVU

Two groups of prosecutors in Baltimore are combining forces to create a Special Victims Unit, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein said Friday.

Bernstein’s said the former Family Violence and Sex Offense divisions were combined to create the SVU, which will tackle crimes like sexual assault, domestic violence, human trafficking and child pornography.

“These are extremely important cases that involve victims with unique needs,” Bernstein said in a statement. “We hope and expect that this reorganization will produce better outcomes both in court and for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.”

Mark R. Cheshire, spokesman for Bernstein, said the SVU reorganization was done to make the handling of these kinds of cases more efficient. He said it also lets prosecutors focus on the specific needs of victims, which can include children and victims of sexual assault as they go through the trial process.

“Both of the divisions were performing quite well before the reorganization,” he said. “But, after looking at a best practices analysis of other state’s attorney offices, the thought was we could be doing things better by combining them.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Phelps is heading up the new unit. Phelps is a graduate of Temple University and the University of Baltimore School of Law. She joined the state’s attorney’s office in 1998 as a law clerk. She became an assistant state’s attorney in 2001.

Cheshire said the new unit, while a streamlining of the office, does not drop any jobs during the transition. He said it could actually lead to some additions as the personnel issues get fully resolved.

The new unit will consist of three teams — one handling cases with child victims, another dealing with adult victims and the third with cases in Maryland District Court. The reorganization is scheduled to take effect on Monday.