There was some good news in the crime statistics presented to the City Council's Public Safety Committee a few moments ago. Burglaries, the bane of the Dallas Police Department in recent years, are down by double-digits thanks to ongoing efforts to shut down fencing operations through which thieves turn their inventory into cash. Murders are down too, and car thefts.
But then look at the line for rapes. There have been 208 reported so far this year, an 11.2-percent jump from the same period last year. Which, as committee
chair member Sandy Greyson pointed out in the meeting, is alarming.
So what's driving the double-digit increase in sexual assault? Well, to be clear, the numbers don't represent an increase in rape; they represent an increase in reports of rape. Which is an important distinction because those are two different things.
Rape is one of DPD's most underreported crimes, since victims are often reluctant to come forward. An expansion of resources available to sexual assault victims, such as the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program at Presbyterian Hospital, has encouraged more women to come forward, said DPD Chief David Brown.
The bigger reason, though, is an increase in reports of rapes that happened years ago. If an adult, for example, reports being sexually assaulted when he or she was a child, that's added to the tally for the current year even though that's not when it happened.
"If you take out the number of sexual assaults that were committed in previous years (and the victim was) not willing to come forward, rapes are actually down," Brown said.
Brown didn't provide a breakdown of how many of the 208 rapes reported so far this year were old. I was watching the committee meeting from my computer and couldn't ask Brown, so I called DPD's media relations department to see if they knew. They didn't, nor could they tell me why more victims were coming forward long after the original crime.
Jana Barker, executive director of the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center, echoed Brown's theory that increasing support for rape victims has encouraged reporting of sexual assaults, both recent and long-ago.
"I'd like to take all the credit forf it at DARCC, but I just think it's having more services available," Barker said. "We haven't had services for rape victims in the past."