Editorials

Sustained effort needed to fix sex felony issues

St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announces a $1.95 million grant to combat sex crimes and domestic violence in St. Clair County. News-Democrat reporters found 70 percent of the sexual felonies in Southern Illinois were never prosecuted. The failure rate was 82 percent in St. Clair County. Kelly is part of a statewide task force to correct that across Illinois.
St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly announces a $1.95 million grant to combat sex crimes and domestic violence in St. Clair County. News-Democrat reporters found 70 percent of the sexual felonies in Southern Illinois were never prosecuted. The failure rate was 82 percent in St. Clair County. Kelly is part of a statewide task force to correct that across Illinois. dholtmann@bnd.com

Only one in every 10 sexual assault victims tells police about their attack, according to estimates. So society incurs a weighty obligation to the 10 percent of victims brave enough to face “the second rape” of police interrogation and then potentially retelling and reliving the experience in court as they face their attackers.

That obligation was woefully underserved, as our Violation of Trust series examined. Those felony sex crime victims failed to see their cases prosecuted 70 percent of the time between 2005 and 2013 in Illinois’ 32 southernmost counties.

It was worse in St. Clair County. Sexual felonies failed to be prosecuted 82 percent of the time.

Things got better after St. Clair County State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly took office, and there is potential for them to get much better thanks to a $1.95 million federal grant intended to focus on the problem as well as domestic violence.

The grant will fund three prosecutors, a probation officer, two sheriff’s deputies and six victims’ advocates who will focus on domestic violence, molestations and rapes. It ends after three years. The sex crimes and domestic abuses, however, will not end after three years.

St. Clair County leaders have three years to figure out how to ensure the end of the grant is not the end of the effort.

The effectiveness of the 12 members of the county’s special victims unit will be measurable. If they help fix the problems, their efforts need to be funded with local taxes instead of hoping the feds come through again. If they are ineffective, they need to be reorganized and redirected.

This is one county service taxpayers should not see sacrificed at the altar of airport dreams and deficits.

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