New Division Supports Survivor-Centered & Trauma-Informed Practice
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Jr., today announced that Executive Assistant D.A. Joyce Smith will lead the Office’s first Special Victims Division. Tasked with enhancing how the Office investigates, staffs, and resources these cases, Joyce will supervise the Sex Crimes, Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, Human Trafficking Response, and Elder Abuse Units, reporting directly to Chief Assistant D.A. Meg Reiss. The units will include full-time Assistant D.A.s, as well as investigators, analysts, and social workers who will work exclusively on these extremely sensitive cases.
The creation of a Special Victims Division on par with the Appeals, Investigation, Pathways, and Trial Divisions speaks to one of the Office’s core values: putting the dignity and wellbeing of survivors at the center of our work. The new organizational structure – along with the forthcoming dedication of resources commensurate with a Division in the Office – represent a significant step toward best supporting our survivor-centered and trauma-informed practice.
D.A. Bragg also announced the appointment of Nicole Blumberg as Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit following a months-long nationwide search, and the appointment of Heather Buchanan as Chief of the Child Abuse Unit.
“There is no better person to lead this work than Joyce Smith,” said D.A. Bragg. “Joyce has dedicated the majority of her career to prosecuting domestic violence cases and leading the Family Justice Center in the Bronx, working with survivors of sexual violence, human trafficking, intimate partner violence, and more. It is this valuable experience, combined with her unique skills, dedication, and empathy, that make Joyce the perfect candidate to oversee this work.”
“After a months-long, nationwide search, I am also pleased to announce the appointment of Nicole Blumberg as Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, after leading our Child Abuse Unit for many years with a trauma-informed approach to interviewing our most vulnerable victims. And finally, I am pleased to announce the appointment of Heather Buchanan to Chief of the Child Abuse Unit, now leading the Unit where she has served as Deputy Chief with dedication and talent for many years.
“The creation of the Special Victims Division and those who are appointed to lead it, represents how we are prioritizing survivors by dedicating skilled prosecutors and critical resources to this work.”
Joyce served as Acting Nassau County District Attorney, after previously serving as Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Community Relations Division. She began her career as an Assistant District Attorney in Queens, where for fifteen years she specialized in prosecuting domestic violence cases, eventually elevated to the role of Unit Chief in the Special Prosecutions Division. Joyce also worked for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as the Executive Director for the Family Justice Center in the Bronx.
Niki joined the office in 1998 and was assigned to Trial Bureau 50, where she investigated, prosecuted and tried a wide variety of murders, police shootings, rapes, and other crimes of violence. She was appointed to the homicide chart in 2006, and has served as Criminal Court Supervisor, Acting Deputy Chief of the Sex Crimes Unit, and Deputy Chief of Trial Bureau 40. In January of 2014, she was appointed Chief of the Child Abuse Unit. In that role, she has lectured nationally and internationally, including training judges, prosecutors, and police officers on how to investigate and prosecute child abuse cases. In addition to her work at the Manhattan D.A.’s Office, Niki has been an Adjunct Professor of Trial Advocacy at Cardozo Law School since 2009.
Heather joined the Office in 2005 and has served as the Deputy Unit Chief of the Child Abuse Unit since 2017. Heather began her career in Trial Bureau 60, where she served in the Domestic Violence and Sex Crimes Units and prosecuted a wide variety of cases including rape, attempted murder, and robbery. In 2014, she transferred to the Child Abuse Unit, where she has investigated and prosecuted infant fatalities, child pornography, and long-term sexual abuse of children.