TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - New Jersey's top law enforcement official said Thursday he is launching a criminal investigation into potential clergy sex abuse in the state's Roman Catholic Church.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the decision was made in light of a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report uncovered that more than 1,000 children had been abused over decades by about 300 priests.
Last month, @JoshShapiroPA and a Pennsylvania grand jury revealed systemic sexual abuse by clergy. The people of New Jersey deserve to know if the same thing happened here.— Gurbir S. Grewal (@GurbirGrewalNJ) September 6, 2018
If you were a victim or know someone who was, call 855-363-6548. @NewJerseyOAG is here to help. pic.twitter.com/gUyMjvvymT
The state's seven dioceses have said they will cooperate with the investigation.
Here's a look at what we know about the investigation in New Jersey:
Grewal, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, set up a task force to look into the issue. It will be headed by former Essex County Prosecutor Robert Laurino.
The group will have the power to subpoena evidence and present it to a grand jury, in addition to other "investigative tools."
In particular, Grewal said the investigation will probe whether the state's dioceses have complied with a 2002 memorandum of understanding that abuse complaints would be reported to law enforcement.
Laurino, who is a former special victims prosecutor, said he wants to give a "voice to those who were abused."
The New Jersey Catholic Conference, which represents the state's bishops on policy matters, says it welcomes the probe and will "fully cooperate."
The group's executive director Patrick Brannigan said he's confident the attorney general will find the dioceses are in compliance with the memorandum.
"We believe cooperating with law enforcement is essential to restoring faith and trust," he said.
The conference estimates there are 3.5 million Catholics in the state.
Brannigan also emphasized that "New Jersey is not Pennsylvania."
Lawmakers and victim advocates said the investigation was a step in the right direction.
Democratic state Sen. Joseph Vitale, who last week called for such an investigation, said the attorney general was taking the "right action."
Patricia Teffenhard, who leads the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said the state has worked toward creating a better system for survivors, and the investigation is a move in a positive direction.
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