Bridgeport Youth Bureau dismantled
BRIDGEPORT — The Bridgeport Police Department’s Youth Bureau, which for more than four decades has investigated crimes against children ranging from rape to murder, was recently disbanded by Police Chief Armando Perez.
“The Youth Bureau needed to undergo a change,” Perez said recently. “So the Youth Bureau was absorbed into the Detective Bureau, which is overseen by Capt. (Brian) Fitzgerald.”
The former head of the Youth Bureau, Sgt. Joseph Hernandez, recently retired amid criticism of how the unit has been handling investigations.
Sources in both the police department and the court system said the last straw was the two years it took to investigate the sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl.
Police acknowledge that although they began the sexual assault investigation in April 2015, Youth Bureau detectives didn’t send the rape kit to the state lab for DNA processing until April 2017 when the suspect, 31-year-old Derrick Siberon, was being investigated for the death of his 10-month-old son.
The state police lab identified Siberon’s DNA in the rape kit taken from the girl.
Recently police also acknowledged in court documents that a 2015 sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl was not fully investigated for two years because the original investigator was transferred out of the Youth Bureau and not replaced.
Maura Crossin, executive director of the Victim Rights Center of Connecticut, has been critical in the past of the way the Youth Bureau has handled sexual assault cases.
“While elimination of the Youth Bureau appears to be a drastic move I think it is a step in the right direction for the Police Department,” Crossin said. “Sometimes you need to shake things up to get it done right.”
Perez acknowledged there were problems with the way the Youth Bureau handled investigations, but attributed those problems to earlier administrations. He pointed out the unit’s failure to find out what happened to 10-year-old Bianca Lebron, who disappeared in front of her school on Nov. 7, 2001, and was never found.
Perez said all former Youth Bureau cases will now be investigated under the umbrella of the Detective Bureau, led by its commander, Capt. Brian Fitzgerald.
“The YB investigated crimes against youth, not crimes done by youth offenders,” Fitzgerald said, adding that now the Detective Bureau will take over those cases. “We’re ready for it.”
Staff writer Tara O’Neill contributed to this report.