Memphis Rapes Plummet; Federal Project Cited

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Reported rapes and attempted rapes have dropped dramatically in Memphis, says a new report. Criminologist Richard Janikowski of the University of Memphis, said no one factor led to the decline, reports the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Better cooperation among local, state and federal agencies and new tools for fighting violent crime contributed, he said. “The numbers are real and they are not play numbers,” Janikowski said.

Between 1997 and 2001, the last year studied, the number of reported rapes and attempted rapes dropped from 938 to 480.

The figures were compiled in a sexual assault project that is part of the U.S. Justice Department’s Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative (SACSI). It was set up five years ago with a $250,000 federal grant.

The project implemented several measures:

–Creation by the District Attorney General’s Office of a unit with six prosecutors to guide sex assault investigations.

–New lighting in apartment complexes and other “hot spots” where rapes are most likely.

–Making sex crimes investigators from the Memphis police available 24 hours a day.

–Working with schools to present sexual assault education to students.

–Working with various community groups, business organizations, and others to further education on sexual assault.

Janikowski believes other get-tough measures, such as the federally supported Project Safe Neighborhoods that targets dangerous career criminals on gun charges, also have made a difference. Rapists frequently are involved in other violent crimes, so taking repeat robbers and burglars off the street also reduces rapes, he said.


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