Baltimore police have been underreporting the number of rapes across the city this year, but officials described the problem as a data error and stressed that it did not affect the number of cases being investigated by sex offense detectives, the Baltimore Sun reports. The mistake resulted in 16 rape cases being miscategorized in the agency’s records management system, which reduced the number reported through the Comstat program. The program produces publicly available data that commanders use to track crime trends. Police said they had flagged the problem and were working to correct it.
The incorrect data showed 45 rapes reported this year through April 13, compared with 81 at the same time last year — a decline of 44 percent, the largest drop of any category of crime. Heather Brantner, the coordinator of the city’s Sexual Assault Response Team, said the problem appeared largely superficial. Her group includes victim advocates and was formed in 2010 after The Baltimore Sun reported that police were discarding rape reports at the highest rate in the nation. Members of the team began to notice the drop in recent weeks and had been discussing possible reasons for the decline. Deputy Commissioner John Skinner said the agency reviewed other categories of crime and have not seen the same problem. He stressed that the records management data are constantly reviewed and not official until they are reported to the FBI, which collects the data nationally.