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Continued: Minneapolis police overreporting rape statistics

Taking the 30 percent reduction into account, Minneapolis would still be among the top five cities in the country for reported rapes over the last several years, an analysis shows.

The Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C., lobbied for broadening the definition of forcible rape. Chuck Wexler, the forum’s executive director, said he does not fault Minneapolis for being “over-inclusive.”

“If anything, it gives a better snapshot,” Wexler said. “The problem is Minneapolis is now being compared to other cities that have not done that, and I don’t think that’s fair to Minneapolis.”

Federal funds tied to numbers

The city may have benefited from overreporting this category of crime. Minneapolis has received as much as $6.5 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance since 2009.

Alexia Cooper, a statistician with the Department of Justice, said that if Minneapolis hadn’t reported its rape numbers, it could have lowered that amount, but couldn’t say by how much because of how the funding formula works.

“It’s a little bit simplistic,” she said. “But report fewer crimes, get less money.”

An FBI spokesman said there are no penalties for providing incorrect data, and it will not ask the city to correct its numbers.

Some said accurate data is vital.

“It’s about public accountability,” said Kimberly Lonsway, research director for End Violence Against Women International. “The stats are used by their communities to evaluate their police agencies.”

Some Minneapolis sexual-assault victim advocates said they didn’t know about the rape numbers the Minneapolis police had reported to the FBI. Pamela Zeller, executive director of the Sexual Violence Center, said she didn’t use the FBI numbers, believing they only counted the narrow definition of rape.

She said she got the city’s rape statistics from the police department. She was told there were about 426 reported rapes in the city in 2012, and nearly 1,400 sexual misconduct cases.

Even that number is likely a fraction of the actual assaults. Research suggests that about 5 to 15 percent of sexual assaults are reported, said Donna Dunn, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

She wants a more accurate count of sexual assaults.

“Not being able to count something this destructive in the community is hard for me to wrap my mind around,” she said. “If this was a strain of flu, we’d have figured out a way to count it.”

 

Brandon.Stahl@startribune.com• 612-673-4626 Alejandra.Matos@startribune.com • 612.673.4028

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