The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office is composed of Criminal Investigation Squads which are charged with investigating specific types of crimes. Each one of the Criminal Investigations Squads is staffed with detectives who investigate the crimes and Assistant Prosecutors who are charged with prosecuting the criminals. Listed below are the Divisions within the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office. Each squad link provides specific information.
The Major Crimes Unit, which was formed in October of 2003, encompasses the following investigative squads: Homicide, Cold Case Homicide, Arson and Fatal Accident. The following is a breakdown of each respective investigative squad and its responsibilities within the Major Crimes Unit:
The Homicide Squad is responsible for investigating all homicides and suspicious deaths that occur within the County of Bergen. This includes the death of a person while in police custody and police involved shootings. The Squad is also responsible for the investigation of persons missing under circumstances which appear suspicious. The squad is also responsible for investigating unsolved homicides that occurred within Bergen County. The investigations are conducted jointly by the Homicide Squad and the police department where the death occurred. When requested by municipal departments, the Squad sometimes assists in attempted murder cases, depending on the severity of injury inflicted and the complexity of the case.
The Cold Case Homicide Squad is responsible for the investigation of all cold case homicides within Bergen County. A murder investigation is deemed a cold case once a year has past since the murder and no arrest has been made.
The Arson Squad is responsible for investigating and determining the origin and cause of arson and arson related crimes within the County of Bergen. These investigations include fires involving fatalities or seriously injured individuals, all commercial and mercantile buildings/shopping mall fires when open or closed for business, all fire incidents in schools, daycare centers, houses of worship, colleges or universities, healthcare facilities and Federal, County, Municipal government buildings, fires in vacant buildings, fire in establishments scheduled to be demolished or sold, suspicious fires, fires which are repeated at the same location or where a series of fires indicates a pattern of arson activity, rapidly spreading fires, large scale fires, an explosion where there is a detection of any incendiary/explosive device, fires in boats, airplanes, and motor vehicles fires involving vehicles that are three years old or newer and/or involving a high value, to include leased vehicles and garages, attached or detached, where it is substantially damaged by fire.
The Fatal Accident Investigation Squad is responsible for investigating fatal and serious bodily injury motor vehicle crashes, which involve criminal recklessness within the County of Bergen. These investigations include collisions where death or serious bodily injury occurs and in which driving while intoxicated (known or possible), excessive speed, two or more moving violations, hit and run, police pursuit, an emergency vehicle, and/or known or potential multiple fatality is a factor in the collision(s). The unit also assists municipalities within Bergen County in complex non-criteria motor vehicle collisions.
The Juvenile Section of the Bergen County Prosecutorís Office is responsible for the prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases heard in the Family Part of the Chancery Division of Superior Court. Cases processed in Bergen County indicate that juvenile offenders are increasingly younger than in previous years. Children under the age of 12 and those who are 12, 13, and 14, have been taken into custody for arsons, assaults and sexual assaults. Regardless of the reasons for their delinquency, younger offenders pose a unique challenge to the courts. The Juvenile Unit seeks to promote accountability for the juvenileís actions, while protecting the community and seeking rehabilitation services to assist the juvenile in becoming a productive member of society.
Juveniles charged with serious offenses, or who are not expected to appear voluntarily for court, may be detained at a juvenile detention center pending court action. Juveniles are not eligible for release on bail.
The Juvenile Intake Unit, an arm of the courts, is responsible for screening all juvenile delinquency complaints that are filed. Intake also recommends whether a complaint is diverted by sending it to the local juvenile conference committee or intake service conferences or referred for court action. The juvenile, along with a parent or guardian, is required to appear to answer the charges.
The Juvenile Unit consists of four assistant prosecutors, one investigator and one paralegal. One of the assistant prosecutors is designated as the section chief, and another serves as assistant section chief. In addition to supervising the administrative functions in the section, the section chief handles more serious cases including high-profile cases and those designated for waiver to adult court. The Unit chief also serves as legal advisor for all juvenile officers in the municipal police departments throughout Bergen County. The Juvenile Unit also works closely with the Prosecutorís Office Victim-Witness Assistance Unit to see that victims are dealt with fairly and compassionately during their court involvement.
The Juvenile Unitís investigative staff consists of one investigator who reports to the lieutenant in charge of the Trial and Grand Jury sections. The investigator performs traditional functions including interviewing witnesses and sending out subpoenas. Because the Juvenile Unit has no central record room, the investigator and paralegal maintain the sectionís files and statistical information.
The Special Investigations Squad conducts investigations involving illegal gambling, criminal usury(loansharking), extortion, prostitution,(massage parlors, escort services), murder for hire, traditional organized crime, armed robbery, carjacking, burglary, home invasion, kidnapping, theft by extortion and illegal possession and sale of firearms.
These investigations are generated from a variety of sources and agencies. Apart from traditional organized crime, the Special Investigations Squad focuses on individuals and groups involved in multi-jurisdictional crime patterns affecting Bergen County. Working cooperatively with municipal, state and federal law enforcement agencies information is evaluated, disseminated and investigated. When appropriate, task forces are assembled containing detectives from the Prosecutorís Office and pertinent law enforcement agencies to address specific crime patterns.
Twelve Assistant Prosecutors and five Detectives are assigned to the Trial Section, including the Trial Chief and three assistant chiefs. Together, these attorneys representing the State of New Jersey, prosecute the majority of indictable criminal offenses brought by local, county, and state police law enforcement agencies. Court proceedings in these matters include, but are not limited to, arraignments, motions, pre trial conferences, trials, sentencing, and post conviction relief issues.
Once a Bergen County Grand Jury votes to indict a case, the Trial Chief reviews the file and assigns the matter to the trial prosecutor, who will handle the matter through its final disposition. The trial assistant prosecutor reviews the file -- including the criminal history of the defendant -- to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case and to become familiar with the victim, if an identifiable victim is involved. This is necessary to meaningfully discuss the case with a supervisor in order to devise a fair plea offer, and to determine whether the defendant is a suitable candidate for admission into the Pre-trial Intervention Program (PTI). Only the Trial Chief, the assistant trial chiefs and senior trial attorneys, have the authority to extend and modify plea offers. A significant number of cases are disposed of by way of PTI or a negotiated plea. Bearing in mind the rights and feelings of the victim(s), these resolutions can benefit all parties involved by bringing a case to a swift and just conclusion.
The defendants whose cases proceed to trial are most often those who are either charged with the more serious offenses or whose lengthy criminal records preclude any reasonable plea negotiations. Other cases which are tried reflect the Prosecutor's Office policy on specific crimes, namely those crimes which are so sensitive to human dignity that they demand an enhanced degree of public scrutiny through the trial process. Such cases are tried in open court and a jury of citizens residing in Bergen County decides the ultimate verdict. The sentencing of defendants always include a recommendation made by an assistant prosecutor on behalf of the State of New Jersey.
The Appellate and Law Section is responsible for researching and writing all the briefs, motions and petitions filed by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office in the New Jersey Appellate Division and Supreme Court, the United States District Court, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. These briefs address legal issues in cases ranging from homicides to DWI prosecutions. The majority of our appellate level work is directed at upholding the convictions of persons who have been tried and found guilty. However, the Section also takes interlocutory appeals when a judge has, in our estimation, erroneously ruled critical evidence inadmissible at trial.
The Appellate Section is also responsible for writing briefs and giving legal advice on major prosecutions and novel issues at the trial level, working particularly on homicides and other violent crimes. For a number of prosecutions, the Section drafts proposed jury instructions, provides legal advice and, with increasing frequency, assistance on trial level briefs on all types of cases. Additionally, appellate attorneys are frequently consulted for advice on active investigations. Other significant functions of the Appellate Section include arguing appeals and motions at the appellate and trial levels; advising the Prosecutor and First Assistant Prosecutor on legal questions, and providing training to law enforcement officers and municipal prosecutors.
The Grand Jury Section has responsibility for the preparation and presentation of cases for indictment, with subsequent disposition by the Trial Section. The Grand Jury Section also handles Case Intake/Screening, the administration of the Pre-Indictment Program (PIP) and Drug Court proceedings. The Grand Jury Section consists of eight assistant Prosecutors, five detectives and four clerical/paralegal staff.
All indictable criminal complaints originating in Bergen County are referred by the municipal courts to the Prosecutorís Office. The complaints undergo a screening process in which they are reviewed by an assistant prosecutor in consultation with a representative of the municipal police department. A decision is made as to whether the case will be handled by the Prosecutorís Office or returned to the municipal court for disposition.
Most cases that will be prosecuted by this Office are scheduled for PIP Court through the Criminal Case Managerís Office. At PIP Court, cases may be resolved by a guilty plea or pre-trial intervention admission. Otherwise, if a disposition cannot be agreed upon, the case is forwarded to the Grand Jury for presentation.
The Grand Jury is an independent body consisting of 23 members of the community, with 12 affirmative votes needed in order to return an indictment. Its proceedings are conducted confidentially. An assistant prosecutor will elicit witness testimony before the Grand Jury to establish whether or not there is probable cause for the return of an indictment. Upon hand-up of an indictment by the Grand Jury, the case is transferred to the Trial Section for disposition.
The Drug Court program is a cooperative effort with the Court that endeavors to give prison-eligible defendants an opportunity to avail themselves of drug rehabilitation. This may include rigorous probation with out-patient or long-term in-patient treatment. The assigned assistant prosecutors screen the cases to be sure the defendant meets the legal and residency requirements of the program, works out a plea agreement with the defense attorney and participates in monitoring the participants for compliance with the program.
The Bergen county Prosecutorsí Office, Counter-Terrorism/Intelligence Unit mission is to provide informed, effective and timely analysis of information to support the Bergen County Law and Public Safety mission. The unitís goals are support the prevention of crime and terrorism, and to successfully identify crimes, trends, and patterns.
The units main focus is to service the Bergen County Prosecutorís Office with investigations as well as local police departments located in Bergen County. In addition, we extend our services to departments in adjoining counties and the remaining counties in New Jersey and counties outside of the State of New Jersey.
The unit is currently comprised of seven (7) individuals. Three (3) of these individuals are responsible for Counter-Terrorism issues and are a liaison between Bergen County, the Department of Homeland Security, and the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. The remaining personnel are responsible for Intelligence issues.
The Bergen County Prosecutorís Office Domestic Violence Unit is responsible for prosecuting all indictable domestic violence crimes committed in Bergen County. The squad is also responsible for prosecuting all non-indictable contempt cases heard by the Superior Court - Family Division, as well as all weapons forfeiture matters that arise from domestic violence incidents. In addition, the squad handles all allegations of willful non-support and matters alleging interference with custody. Additionally, the unit oversees the investigation of all police officer involved acts of domestic violence, and is ultimately responsible for advising the Prosecutor concerning the rearming process for these individuals.
The domestic violence legal staff currently consists of three attorneys who handle the caseload in the sections. One assistant prosecutor is designated as the chief and is responsible for the overall supervision and administration of the squad, as well as training in the area of domestic violence law, and handling cases of police officer-involved acts of domestic violence. The chief and one other attorney in the unit handle indictable cases from inception through disposition, while the remaining assistant prosecutor is responsible for the non-indictable contempt cases and most of the weapons forfeiture matters. Members of the legal staff of the unit are available 24 hours a day to provide legal advice regarding domestic violence to the 72 law enforcement agencies in Bergen County.
The investigative staff is comprised of a sergeant and one paralegal. The detective-sergeant and paralegal are responsible for preparing indictable matters, including jail cases, for Pre-Indictment Plea court, Grand Jury presentation and ultimately for trial. The Paralegal gathers all required information on the weapons forfeiture matters and non-indictable contempt cases for court. The detective sergeant assigned to the unit is responsible of compiling reports and other information on the cases entailing police officer-involved acts of domestic violence.
A domestic violence counselor is assigned to the unit and facilitates immediate contact between the Prosecutorís Office and the victims of domestic violence offenses. This immediate contact is crucial in domestic violence cases. Referrals can be made to obtain needed assistance for the victim. As a result, the victim may become more cooperative with law enforcement. In addition, the counselor provides support for the victims/witnesses during the Grand Jury and court proceedings and can answer questions when victims call to find out the status of their case, or to inquire about available services.
The Bergen County Prosecutorís Office protocol for accepting referrals of willful non-support cases from the Bergen County Probation Department Child Support Enforcement Unit (CSEU) was completed in 2003. The CSEU refers to our office those willful non-support cases that meet the criteria for criminal prosecution under the established protocol.
Together with the local police, the domestic violence unit strives to prosecute domestic violence offenders and provide support services to the victims.
The Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit responds to the unique problems connected with sexual offenses and child abuse. The unit consists of four assistant prosecutors, a lieutenant, three sergeants, ten investigators, one agent, a SANE Nursery and a Victim Witness Advocate. The unit has the following objectives:
The unit is also responsible for the registration of sex offenders pursuant to Megan`s Law, along with notifications to local departments and the community, where applicable. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, that includes law enforcement, prosecution, child protective services, family services and medical services, a maximum amount of information is gathered from victims and their families with a minimum amount of trauma. This approach has led to greater communication among the varied professionals that deal with child abuse on a daily basis. Consequently, reporting is up and victims and their families are less likely to withdraw or recant, making for prosecutions that are more efficient and encompassing.
The Children`s House, a child advocacy center run under the auspices of the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office, the Division of Youth and Family Services, and Hackensack University Medical Center has further enhanced this multi-disciplinary approach. A child-friendly interview room with observation area, pleasant waiting areas, physical examination room and meeting room are situated in a relaxed house-like setting where children feel comfortable sharing the details of their abuse.
The primary goal of the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit is to accomplish justice by securing the conviction of any person who violates our laws by victimizing women and children. In addition, the Unit is determined to make the victim`s contact with the criminal justice system as trauma-free as possible. It is felt that the multi-disciplinary approach we have chosen represents the best possible chance of accomplishing these goals.
The White Collar Crimes Unit is responsible for the investigation of major theft and fraud offenses committed in Bergen County. Generally, the White Collar Crimes Unit limits its participation in theft and fraud investigations to cases involving a loss of $75,000 or more. Due to the complex and multi-jurisdictional nature of theft and fraud investigations, the squad often assists local municipalities in cases requiring special expertise.
Currently, the White Collar Crimes Unit is staffed with an assistant prosecutor, a lieutenant, one sergeant and two detectives. A member of the squad is on call to respond to emergent matters after hours and on weekends.
The types of theft or fraud cases handled by the White Collar Crimes Unit include such offenses as theft by deception, forgery, embezzlement, stock fraud, insurance fraud, credit card fraud, home improvement fraud, elder fraud and violations of professional licensing statutes.
Cases are developed through information received directly from victims, municipal police departments and other law enforcement agencies, consumer protection agencies and through New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice referrals.
The White Collar Crimes Unit regularly fields citizen contacts concerning issues that may not fall within the purview of the squad. Although personnel are prohibited from providing legal advice, the citizen will be referred to a more appropriate agency.
The core function of the Animal Cruelty Task Force is the proactive investigation and prosecution of alleged cases of animal neglect and cruelty within Bergen County. The task force works in cooperation with local law enforcement in the investigation of all complaints. Community education is one component of the task forceís work.
Animal Cruelty Task Force investigations are generated by tips from the public, Animal Control Officers and local law enforcement to our central dispatch at 201-573-8900. The dispatch line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Callers should be mindful that they may remain anonymous, however in case of criminal prosecution a witness will be required.
The Animal Cruelty Task Force is comprised of dedicated volunteers. Members attend continuing education classes on evenings and weekends to hone their skills as Animal Cruelty Investigators. All members are required to complete a rigorous curriculum and basic firearms qualification at the Bergen County Law & Public Safety Institute in Mahwah.
On December 1, 2006, in response to the increase in gang activity and gang related crime in Bergen County, the Bergen County Prosecutorís Office created the Bergen County Gang Unit. The creation of the task force was in conjunction with the Office of the Bergen County Sheriff. Each police department in Bergen County has designated a police officer(s) as a gang task force member. The purpose of the County Gang Unit is to more effectively and jointly combat the rising increase in gang membership, gang activity and gang crime throughout Bergen County. The Bergen County Prosecutorís Office Gang Unit provides educational training and promotes a closer working relationship among gang investigators, law enforcement and the public. The Gang Unit also promotes extensive information gathering, rapid dissemination of intelligence and exchange of information concerning gang related incidents and membership. The information gathered is disseminated between law enforcement agencies within and outside of Bergen County. Additionally, the Gang Unit enforces the criminal statutes of the State of New Jersey through investigation and prosecution.
The Bergen County Prosecutorís Office Narcotic Task Force has evolved to its present form over a period of about thirty years. The mission of the Narcotic Task Force is to investigate the illegal use and distribution of illicit drugs within Bergen County and to service the municipal police agencies within the county. It does so utilizing a multi-jurisdictional approach. Municipal police departments within Bergen County are encouraged to assign personnel to the Narcotic Task Force for varying periods of duration and the Narcotic Task Force routinely assigns personnel to other investigative agencies as well, believing that it is only through cooperation that law enforcementís anti drug efforts will be successful. Narcotic Task Force personnel serve full time with the United States Immigration and Customís Service (ICE) and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The Narcotic Task Force is also involved in the drug enforcement training and education of police officers and both hosts and provides instructors for in-service police training classes conducted at the Bergen County Police Academy and other police training academies. Instructors are also provided for Basic Police Training recruits. The Narcotic Task Force cooperates with the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police and the County Narcotic Task Force Commanderís Association of New Jersey by supplying faculty for the stateís premier drug enforcement courses; Top Gun, the Drug Unit Supervisorís Training and the Undercover Narcotic Investigation Training courses which are attended by law enforcement personnel throughout the country. Community outreach programs are also conducted in the countyís schools and through civic groups. Those interested in a drug awareness program are encouraged to contact their local police in that the Narcotic Task Force coordinates all enforcement and education efforts through the municipal police chiefs and departments.
The Civil Unit of the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office is responsible for prosecuting all civil forfeitures within Bergen County. In order to act as a deterrent against future crimes and to deprive criminals of the illicit gains of their crimes, New Jersey law pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:64-1 et. seq., permits the forfeiture of property that has been used, or is intended to be used, in furtherance of an unlawful activity arising from an indictable offense. The procedures to forfeit property as well as the use of property after forfeiture are subject to strict guidelines promulgated by the Office of the Attorney General. The Civil Unit prosecutes civil forfeiture actions where the State has seized currency, automobiles, real estate and other property received as proceeds or utilized in connection with or in furtherance of the underlying criminal activity. Some common examples of property that is subject to forfeiture include: illegal weapons, currency that is used to purchase drugs or promote loan sharking, automobiles used to transport illegal weapons or narcotics, laptops containing child pornography and homes where drugs are illegally distributed.
The State has the burden of proving the forfeitability of each property by a preponderance of the evidence. Once satisfied, all interests in the property are forfeited unless claimants can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were innocent owners.
After settlement or by entry of judgment in a forfeiture action the proceeds are distributed to participating state and local law enforcement purposes and expenditures are reviewed and supervised by the Prosecutor`s Office.
The Civil Unit also handles miscellaneous civil litigation involving the Bergen County Prosecutor`s Office. Among other civil litigation practices, the Civil Unit files complaints and motions, negotiates settlements and is responsible for trials. Another aspect of the Unit`s responsibility is the handling and processing of Open Public Records Act requests and subpoenas.
The Computer Division provides information systems and support to every law enforcement agency in Bergen County, which includes municipal, county, state and federal agencies. The services are provided through distributed computing systems over a countywide TCP/IP network. By utilizing these systems and the network, law enforcement personnel within the county can share information with each other as well as with state agencies like the New Jersey State Police and federal agencies like the Drug Enforcement Agency.
All of the systems and the network are monitored and supported by the Computer Division Operations unit 24 hours per day 365 days per year. Other units within the division include Applications and Web Development, Applications Support, Systems Support, Data Control, Hardware Support and Administration.
The Computer Division Helpdesk is available at all times at 201-226-5605.
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