In a four-part series, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch investigates the police department’s questionable rape statistics, which were kept artificially low because police often discounted claims by women who were reluctant to testify, easy to discredit or difficult to locate. Rape numbers have risen significantly since the paper questioned police about the practice.
Many women’s reports of sex crimes were relegated to informal memos. Police should have counted them but didn’t. Usually a paper record, these went into a filing cabinet for a year or two, and eventually to a shredder. Police used memos for at least two decades, a time in which the city’s rape totals steadily dropped to a fraction of those in similar cities. Sixty-one rapes were on the books at the end of last October, when the questions started. A new count put the 2004 total at 171. St. Louis joins Philadelphia and Atlanta as cities whose police shelved rape cases. But only in St. Louis did an inquiry find little wrong with the practice.