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Improving Sexual Assault Investigations with Trauma-Informed, Victim-Centered Approaches in Brighton and Commerce City, Colorado

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2021
21 pages

This brief – one in a series that highlights leading victim services efforts – describes the development and operations of the Sexual Assault Task Force (SATF) of Commerce City and Brighton, Colorado.


Commerce City and Brighton are neighboring cities that share similar population densities and demographics. The police departments of these cities were uniquely positioned to create a joint task force because of their history of collaboration. The Victim Services Units of the two departments merged in 2014. After this merger, both police departments were struggling with sexual assault investigations. Reporting rates for sexual assault were apparently declining, and prosecutor acceptance rates for the prosecution of sexual assault cases also declined. Both police departments had a similar recognition that they needed to improve their investigation of sexual assault cases. Under the leadership of their victim services manager, the Commerce City deputy chief and the chiefs of both departments created the SATF in 2018, using a Smart Policing Initiative (SPI) grant. The SATF was designed to change the departments’ approaches to sexual assault investigations by applying trauma=informed and victim-centered techniques intended to improve victim outcomes and sexual assault investigations. The SATF is currently composed of five detectives, a sergeant who oversees the detective, an investigations commander from Commerce City, the victim services manager for the joint departments, a researcher, and two victim advocates. SATF works closely with another joint program of the two departments that prioritizes giving victims choices by offering access to victim advocates, police resources, and medical treatment, regardless of whether they choose to identify their attacker and participate in an investigation. Lessons learned from the SATF are discussed. 12 references

Date Published: August 1, 2021