Reporting Gigi Barnett
BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Encouraging new numbers released Wednesday from a city task force designed to reduce the number of sexual assaults in Baltimore.
As Gigi Barnett explains, it took a three-year effort to drop the number of unfounded rape cases.
Back in 2010, the number of unfounded rape cases in Baltimore outpaced every other city in the nation. The city jumped into action, revamped its Sexual Assault Response Team–also called SART–and vowed to fully investigate every claim.
“We need and must do everything in our power to ensure victims of sexual assault feel safe reporting incidents to police,” said then-Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld.
Now, three years later, the report released Wednesday says the task force made the right changes. The most crucial: officers stopped the practice of dismissing rapes and sexual assaults on the scene.
“That was a big problem,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
The number of forcible rape cases is down 17 percent from last year. One of the largest drops may be the unfounded cases, which fell from 31 percent down to a little less than two percent. Last year, more than 425 rape victims came forward to report the crime and collect evidence.
“For a lot of victims, they just didn’t feel that people believed them, that people cared about what happened to them,” said Gail Reid.
Reid runs the victims’ advocacy arm of Turnaround, a women’s assault crisis center. The agency works with the SART team. She says the next step is getting more community groups involved and drop the number even more.
“We need to hear back,” she said. “What do we need to do to improve?”
The task force plans to expand and fully staff its child abuse unit, which handled nearly 1,000 cases last year.