Concerned that police departments nationwide fail to investigate rapes fully, a congressional committee will examine the issue next week at a hearing spurred partly by a Baltimore Sun examination of the systemic underreporting of sex crimes. The Senate Crime and Drugs subcommittee has asked representatives of the Office of Violence Against Women to appear in Washington to discuss the problem, says the Sun, as well as a Pennsylvania woman jailed by police who erroneously accused her of making a false rape report.
The Sun reported in July that Baltimore for years led the nation in the percentage of rape cases in which police concluded that the victim was lying, with more than 3 in 10 cases called “unfounded.” Other cities have seen disturbingly high percentages of uninvestigated or dropped race cases in years past, and a women’s advocate in Philadelphia pushed for the congressional hearing after the Sun’s investigation reignited concerns. The newspaper’s report “made me believe that all of the issues [in other cities] were not just idiosyncratic problems, but that there is likely a chronic and systemic failure in police departments,” said Carol Tracy, head of the Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia. “I think it’s important to expose it, and to encourage the federal government, which has very little jurisdiction around this, to nevertheless exercise greater accountability on the data that it does receive.” Tracy’s group reviews rape reports marked as unfounded by Philadelphia police. The hearing was authorized by panel chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.)