New Jersey Hotline to Report Priest Sex-Abuse Claims Overwhelmed by Calls, Report Says

September 17, 2018 Updated: October 5, 2018

The hotline established for reporting sexual abuse by Catholic priests in New Jersey is constantly busy.

“It rang maybe 10 times. … It hung up and a message came up saying we’re unable to take your call,” said Joe Capozzi, who claims he was abused by his priest 50 years ago, when he was 11, CBS New York reported.

The dedicated call-in center was set up Sept. 6 by Attorney General Gurbir Grewal as part of the state’s investigation of allegations of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and any efforts to cover up such abuse, within the Roman Catholic dioceses of New Jersey.

When the task force was first announced, Grewal’s office stated the toll-free hotline would be staffed with “trained professionals” and operate on a 24/7 basis. The line has been so active that Grewal has had to assign more staff to handle calls, according to CBS.

Grewal said he formed the task force after reading a report by a Pennsylvania grand jury alleging more than 1,000 victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priests in that state going back as far as 70 years.

“We owe it to the people of New Jersey to find out whether the same thing happened here,” Grewal said. “If it did, we will take action against those responsible.”

The task force is headed by Acting Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino; he reports to New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice Director Veronica Allende.

“We want victims to know that we stand ready to investigate their cases and will do everything in our power to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice,” Allende said. “The key is obtaining adequate evidence, and we urge anyone with information about sexual abuse by members of the clergy to contact us confidentially through our new hotline.”

At least seven states have started investigating sexual-abuse claims by clergy or have laid the groundwork for such inquiries since Pennsylvania issued its report in August.

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