Victim Advocates React to NewsChannel 5 Investigation
Verna Wyatt of You Have the Power
By Ben Hall Investigative Reporter
Victim advocates in Nashville are hoping Metro's next police chief addresses the way police report and classify crimes.
It follows an ongoing NewsChannel 5 Investigation into the truth about crime.
"You need to be truthful," said Verna Wyatt of You Have the Power. "People need to know."
Wyatt had worried that police were misclassifying and undercounting rape cases.
"The rumor that you had was there was a lot of pressure to make things look good," said Wyatt.
Our investigation discovered Metro police classified Lisa Baucom's sexual assault case as a "matter of record." It means that it's not officially counted as a crime.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which oversees crime reporting in Tennessee, reviewed her case and said it should classified as forcible rape
"There was a crime that happened that day," Baucom said. "I know for a fact there was a crime that happened."
Matter of record cases used to be rare. In 2001, Metro police classified just five percent of sexual assault claims as matter of record which don't count in the city's crime stats. But by 2009, the number went up to 30 percent of all sexual assault complaints.
"Instead of guessing, we're labeling them under matter of record just to get the investigation started," said Lt. Preston Brandimore.
He explained there are several categories of sex crimes -- including sodomy, rape with an object and others -- and police often don't have enough information initially classify cases in the right category
Verna Wyatt believes the dramatic increase in matter of record complaints does not give people a clear picture of crime in Nashville.
"Let's talk reality," she said. "If there were one hundred rapes, let's say there were one hundred rapes."
Verna Wyatt said officers and investigators do an excellent job. Her concern is about getting the most accurate picture of crime in Nashville.