NEW YORK -- The number of child abuse complaints referred to police by social workers has soared since the highly publicized torture and killing of a 7-year-old girl, threatening to overwhelm investigators, the head of the police department says.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the surge comes from heightened vigilance after the deaths of Nixzmary Brown and several other children who had been monitored by the Administration for Children's Services.
Prosecutors said Nixzmary was bound, tortured, and fatally beaten by her stepfather, although ACS workers had been investigating reports that she had been missing school and had severe bruises.
Child welfare workers have been sharply criticized for failing to get police more actively involved sooner, but Kelly said the furor may now be provoking an opposite response with social workers asking for police intervention too often.
Kelly told a City Council committee on Tuesday that the number of cases welfare workers have referred to the police department's Special Victims Division has climbed 65 percent since Nixzmary's Jan. 11 death. There was a 226 percent increase in requests for action by the division's instant response teams, which are usually deployed only when immediate action is needed to rescue a child being severely abused, he said.
Nixzmary's mother, Nixzaliz Santiago, and stepfather, Cesar Rodriguez, have pleaded not guilty to murder, manslaughter, and other charges.