BALTIMORE (WBFF) - A crime often done in secret, sexual assault stays largely out of public view as Baltimore watches hundreds of people murdered every year.
While murder is done on city streets and alleys, sexual assault is committed behind closed doors. In 2017, 342 people were murdered in Baltimore. 356 were raped according to Baltimore Police Department (BPD) data.
Police say they have closed over half of those cases, a couple of years after the Department of Justice criticized the department for not closing enough of them. In 2015, FBI data shows police cleared seven percent of its cases.
The head of BPD’s Special Crime Section, Steve Hohman, says the department was clearing cases, but not filing the proper paperwork with the FBI to get credit for the closures. As a result, the BPD rape clearance rate went up from 7% in 2015 to 34% in 2016. But closing a case does not mean police arrest a suspect.
“A lot of the cases I found would be presented to the State’s Attorney’s Office and some were declined for prosecution. That would still be a clearance for the police department,” Hohman said.
In response to police, the State’s Attorney’s Office sent the following statement:
"Our office reviews all sexual assault allegations involving adults where the BPD decline to immediately charge due to a lack of evidence. In 2018, our office determined that 75% of the overall cases brought, had legally sufficient evidence to move forward or required additional investigatory time."
Closing cases without arrests may not be the best course of action, according to Arizona State University Criminologist Dr. Cassia Spohn.
Spohn studied sexual assault investigations performed by the Los Angeles Police Department.
"I would argue that it's better to keep it open because it's possible that new leads would be developed, evidence might be found," Spohn said.
Baltimore police did not provide us with a breakdown of how its rape cases are closed each year, nor did the State’s Attorney’s Office provide a number of cases it declines.
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