Metro Crime Stats Ignore Hundreds of Sex Assault Cases - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NC5 Investigates: The Truth About Crime

Metro Crime Stats Ignore Hundreds of Sex Assault Cases

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By Ben Hall
Investigative Reporter

Metro police claim rapes have gone down in Nashville for the last six years -- from 390 in 2004 to 290 last year.

But a NewsChannel 5 investigation into the truth about crime reveals that many sexual assault complaints are just not being counted as crimes.

Some victims said rapes are difficult to report.

"I felt like I was raped a second time," said Lisa Baucom. "They stripped me of any right that I had."

Baucom was willing to share her personal story because of the way she felt that police treated her when she tried to report being raped. 

"They just wanted me to go away," she recalled.

It all started when Baucom needed her car repaired. An acquaintance said he'd help. He gave her a soft drink which she believes was drugged.  She woke up the next morning in his bed.

"I confronted him and he blew it off.  He said I didn't say no," said Baucom. "I wasn't in a position to say no. Technically, he was right. I didn't say no, but I couldn't."

NewsChannel 5 Investigates clarified, "Because you'd been drugged."

"Exactly," she said.

Baucom went to the hospital and encountered a policy Metro began in 2007 for responding to sexual assault calls.

"I started being angry at the person who done that to me. At the end of the day, I walked out of that hospital and was probably more upset at how they treated me," said Baucom.

For years, patrol officers were told to "avoid detailed interviews" with sex abuse victims.

In 2007, less-trained patrol officers were told to "respond [and] assess" the call to see if a trained sex-abuse investigator should be called.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Metro Police Capt. David Imhof, "What impact has that change had on the way these cases are investigated?

Imhof responded, "I think none."

The captain said that despite having to "assess the call," patrol officers are still not supposed to do long interviews.

"We're not asking a patrol officer to go out and do a detailed interview with a victim," said Imhof.

Lisa Baucom said hours of questioning from patrol officers and a detective, plus long waits at two hospitals made her question why anyone would report a rape.

"I spent hours just horrified retelling my story, and there was absolutely nothing that came of it," said Baucom.

She finally got so frustrated she left the hospital.  Police classified her case as a "matter of record" -- not rape.

That means it didn't count in any crime statistic.

"There was a crime that happened that day," said Baucom, becoming emotional. "I know for a fact there was a crime that happened, and it's insulting to me that it's not counted, like my pain is not counted, like my hurt is not counted." 

In fact, NewsChannel 5 Investigates discovered hundreds of sexual assault reports not counted as crimes in Metro's crime stats.

The number of cases classified as "matter of record" has skyrocketed.

In 2001, police classified just 5 percent of sexual assault complaints as "matter of record," but it has gone up every year since.

By 2009, more than 30 percent of all sexual assault calls were classified as "matter of record." That's more than 500 sexual assault complaints last year simply not counted.

Sexual Assault Reports Not Counted As Crimes
Year Total Reports "Matter of Record" Percentage
2000 1088 50 4.5%
2001 1153 60 5%
2002 977 60 6%
2003 980 82 8.3%
2004 1615 157 9.7%
2005 1694 219 18.8%
2006 1668 330 19.7%
2007 1802 414 22.9%
2008 1749 465 26.5%
2009 1742 522 30%
      Source: MNPD

"Instead of guessing, we're labeling them under ‘matter of record' just to get the investigation started," said Metro Police Lt. Preston Brandimore.

Brandimore oversees Metro's Sex Crime Unit. He said there are several possible categories for sex crimes, and Metro wants to find the right one.  

But a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation official said agencies should not wait to classify crimes. The TBI oversees crime reporting in Tennessee.

"We train law enforcement to take the victim's word for it and classify it that way initially," said TBI spokesperson Kristin Helm. 

TBI agents reviewed Lisa Baucom's case and determined that it should have been counted as a forcible rape.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Lt. Brandimore, "Do you feel like that case was properly classified?"

"Yes," he responded.

"Why do you say that," asked NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

"Based on reviewing the report and the information in the report," the lieutenant answered.
 
Metro police insisted that "matter of record" cases are still investigated.

"It's going to be investigated. It's going to be investigated thoroughly," Brandimore said.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates responded, "But the reason it matters is for those crime stats.  It looks like there are fewer rapes."

"Statistics -- yes," the lieutenant acknowledged.

Other cases not counted in the statistics: a pregnant woman who was hospitalized and said her ex-boyfriend sexually assaulted her. Metro called it "matter of record."  The TBI said forcible rape.

In that case, a patrol officer actually told her to call a sex-abuse detective when she got out of the hospital.

"Yea, that's unusual," Capt. Imhof admitted. "Should we have gone? Maybe we should.  We're going to look into that one."

Metro points out that detectives later tried to contact the woman several times a week later, but she did not respond.

Another case not counted, involved a woman who said she was drugged and likely raped.  Even though tests proved she had been drugged, Metro classified the case as a "matter of record." The TBI said it was at least aggravated assault.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Capt. Imhof, "Is there an effort to keep the numbers down?"

"No," Imhof insisted. "It doesn't change my job whether we're going to be up in rapes or down in rapes. Obviously, we want rapes down every year."

Lisa Baucom doesn't believe Metro's claim that rapes are down.

"I think there are a whole lot of cases exactly like mine," said Baucom. "I don't think it went down."

She thinks rapes are just harder to report.

"Honestly, if God forbid, it did happen to me again. I don't know if I would even go and make the call," said Baucom.

Metro police said that, when cases are classified as "matter of record," investigators can go back and reclassify the case in the proper sex crime category once they get more information.

The department does not keep statistics on how many cases it reclassifies.  

Metro's own report writing manual said "matter of record" cases are not necessarily a crime. It tells officers to use this description to report any activity significant enough to record but not list as a crime.

E-mail: bhall@newschannel5.com

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