Event aims to bring awareness of child abuse

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UTICA — Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. and other county leaders gathered at the Child Advocacy Center in Utica on Thursday to mark the end of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Picente was joined by law enforcement officials from across the county, as well as advocacy center staff, to place blue and white pinwheels into the ground along the pathway leading up to the center. This annual recognition event is to raise awareness and spread the message to keep an eye out for possible child abuse.

“As we close this month out, we want to urge everyone to be very vigilant, to keep this awareness going year-round,” said Oneida County Sheriff Chief Deputy Derrick O’Meara, director of the CAC.

“We need the community around us to be very aware of child abuse. We are charged with the well-being of the children in our community, as a group, and all our partners. They are our future and it really is up to us to ensure the children’s well-being. This staff, this agency, does a magnificent job of doing just that.”

The Child Advocacy Center is a joint operation between several area law enforcement agencies and county offices, which investigates reports of abuse against children. The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Rome Police Department and Utica Police Department provide investigators, with victim advocates from the YWCA Mohawk Valley, and mental health counselors from the Oneida County Department of Family and Child Services, the Center for Family Life and Recovery and the Neighborhood Center.

According to Picente, the CAC investigated 897 cases of child abuse in 2021, serving 862 children. There were 783 offenders and 67 arrests.

Of those cases, 809 were investigating sexual abuse, 78 were physical abuse and 17 were neglect cases, officials said. Those cases involved 631 girls and 231 boys; 396 were between the ages of 13 and 18; 271 were between the ages of 7 and 12, and then 194 of the cases involved children ranging from newborns to 6-years-old.

“This child advocacy center is a model around the country. Certainly around the state, but around the country as well, because we did it right when we started it several years ago and it continues to get better every day,” said Picente.

“Protecting the children of this community is on the forefront of what we do every day. During the pandemic, many cases of abuse and neglect went unreported and our most vulnerable population suffered.”

“This is not an easy place to work, but they have a true desire and a true passion to help the victims they are charged with protecting,” said Sheriff Maciol.

“We need to make the community aware. They can’t do this job alone. We need the community. People have an obligation. If you know something is happening, if you know a child is in trouble, that there’s a child that needs help, you have to help us.”

Anyone looking to report abuse against a child or children can call their local police agency or call the CAC directly at 315-732-3990.

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