The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office unveiled a plan for a proposed sexual assault response team, or SART, at the Oct. 12 Commissioners Court meeting, following a state bill mandating its creation.
Mike Holley, the first assistant district attorney for Montgomery County, and Division Chief Tiana Sanford delivered the presentation to commissioners. District Attorney Brett Ligon was not present, but Holley said he would provide specific recommendations at a later time.
Counties are mandated to form a sexual assault response team by Senate Bill 476, which was passed by the Texas Legislature in June and went into effect Sept. 1.
Sanford told Community Impact Newspaper that in the past five years the DA’s office investigated and prosecuted 89 adult sexual assault cases. According to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network website, on a five-year average involving all ages reported, 50 out of 1,000 sexual assaults result in a trial and 28 result in a felony conviction.
“We want to put some resources on this problem, we want to add some emphasis on this issue, and it will give [commissioners] some oversight on this issue,” Holley said.
Questions to be answered
Every SART would meet at least four times a year, including once after a state legislative session concludes, according to the bill. Other responsibilities include providing a report to commissioners annually on the team’s activities.
Sanford said at the Commissioners Court meeting the report would include the number of sexual assaults reported, the number of cases investigated, and the number of cases that were either prosecuted or not presented to court on an annual basis.
SB 476 mandates every SART must include a chief administrator, the police chief serving the county’s largest police department, the county sheriff, a prosecutor with jurisdiction over adult sexual assault cases, a sexual assault nurse examiner, and a behavioral health services provider or representative from the county's largest health provider. Sanford said, as of Oct. 15, the DA's office had not pursued specific conversations about who would fill the roles, although Sheriff Rand Henderson and Conroe Police Chief Jeff Christy would be involved.
In an email to Community Impact Newspaper, Holley said the DA’s office was not planning to request new personnel or contract with outside agencies, although collaborating with other county SARTs could be possible.
Sanford said the SART would be a positive move for the county’s handling of sexual assault cases, citing the model’s effectiveness in other crimes.
“We know that when we get subject matter experts and stakeholders around the table, that we better serve victims and we are more effective in ensuring the safety of the public,” Sanford said. “We are 100% in support of the state requiring ... that every county starts to do this.”
The state-imposed deadline for counties to implement a SART is Dec. 1.