St. Louis Downgrades Many Rapes As “Assaults”


When St. Louis police report sex crimes, they often violate FBI rules by relegating many crimes that other police departments call rapes to a lesser crime category not included in national figures, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. A review identified 169 incidents over five years that appear to fit the rape definition but were filed as “other sex crimes.” There were 37 in 2003. Counting them as rapes would have lifted the year’s total to 118. The result is easy to see. St. Louis police reported just 81 rapes in 2003. That’s fewer than counted by Sioux Falls, S.D.; Fort Collins, Colo.; Boise, Idaho; New Bedford, Mass.; Lansing, Mich.; Las Cruces, N.M.; and Lafayette, La. – all cities that did not have even one-fifth as many overall crimes as St. Louis that year.

Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri at St. Louis, analyzed the rape numbers and estimated that St. Louis should have about 214 rapes in 2003 – nearly three times more than it recorded. St. Louis police call many cases “sexual assaults” that do not show up in national statistics. Sgt. Stephen Dougherty of the St. Louis sex-crimes unit said it’s a rape only when the attacker causes or threatens harm beyond the rape itself, or drugs the victim. Other cities do not place rape investigations in the hands of district detectives, as St. Louis does. “We would not allow an area station to handle a rape case,” said Sgt. Janet Wright, a sex-crimes supervisor in San Diego.


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