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Many Baltimore City Rape Cases To Be Reopened

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WJZ general assignment reporter Mike Hellgren came to Maryland's News...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It happened more than 100 times in the last year and a half.  A person called Baltimore City police to report a rape, but the case was never investigated.  Now the majority of those cases are being reopened.

Mike Hellgren explains what’s being done.

More than 70 rape claims in the span of a few months were never investigated and now a new audit reveals those victims should have been heard.

A citywide audit of rape complaints that were deemed “unfounded” finds that about one in five victims was wrongfully told they had no case.  If not for this audit, they never would have been investigated.

“This is an incredible issue that I think that we needed significant help on and we’re getting it and we’re making significant progress,” said Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.

In June, the Baltimore Sun found the number of unfounded rapes in the city was the highest in the nation.

Victims started speaking out.

“They snatched my daughter up off of the street and raped her.  I’m lucky she’s alive,” said one mother.

Immediately the police commissioner stopped patrol officers from throwing out rape cases.  Now reports must be created for each complaint.

“We have failed sexual assault victims in Baltimore,” Bealefeld said.

This week, a three-month audit reveals mistakes in the police work and necessary system-wide changes.  Of 135 cases that were reviewed, 28 should have been investigated as rape, 42 others should have been investigated as assault or abuse.

“I was more surprised in the number of cases that were affirmed as unfounded,” said one.  “I expected that it might have been far-reaching and so I’m optimistic at how quickly we may be able to reform some of this.”

Those reforms include hiring a new sexual assault response team leader, creating flow charts of how information is shared, training detectives and buying databases to track cases across agencies.

The citywide committee is implementing these changes in how rape cases are handled immediately.  Already the number of unfounded rape cases has decreased and there’s an increase of reported rapes in the city.

The failures and changes in Baltimore’s system are going to be shared at the National Sex Assault Conference.

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