How can law enforcement be so clueless about sex crimes?
Our series “Violation of trust” looked at sex crimes reported to the police in Southern Illinois from 2005-2013, and found that just three of every 10 victims’ cases ever made it to prosecution. Just one of every 10 suspects was convicted and sent to prison. This despite the victims being able to identify their attacker in 95 percent of the cases.
The statistics are appalling, and of equal concern is the unawareness by many police chiefs and prosecutors of what is, or rather isn’t, happening in front of them. If they were paying closer attention or if there were uniform reporting about sex crimes, they wouldn’t be surprised when reporters point out to them how they are failing victims.
Belleville Police Chief Bill Clay – whose department had just 18 percent of the sex crimes reported to it prosecuted – said we have a legal system, not a justice system. Actually the public expects both. And in places where sex crimes are handled with the seriousness they deserve, the legal system gives victims a better shot at justice. Saline County filed charges in 80 percent of the sex crimes reported to the police. Madison County had twice the rate of prosecutions as neighboring St. Clair County.
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If police and prosecutors didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem before, they do now. The question becomes: What are they going to do about it?