The Special Victims Unit was created by Sheriff Susan Benton in 2007. The detectives and deputy sheriffs assigned to this unit investigate crimes against especially vulnerable victims, including child abuse, sexual crimes, and abuse and neglect of the elderly. SVU also investigates missing persons and runaway children.
The Special Victims Unit works with the Department of Children and Families and ensures the Sheriff’s Office conducts an independent investigation of all allegations of child and elderly abuse or neglect reported in Highlands County. One deputy assigned to the Special Victims Unit works full time monitoring sexual offenders and sexual predators within Highlands County to ensure these persons comply with the legal restrictions and requirements placed on them.
The victim advocates assigned to the Special Victims Unit work with victims of crime and assist them with negotiating the criminal justice system, filing petitions for domestic violence injunctions, and submitting requests for victim compensation. The victim advocate program at the Sheriff’s Office is entirely grant funded and the advocates work with victims of crime within Highlands County, regardless of what agency is investigating the crime.