County’s Increase in Rapes Attributed to Change in Definition

County’s Increase in Rapes Attributed to Change in Definition

The number of rapes reported in 2015 rose 95 percent compared to the same time period in 2014, due to a change in how they were reported, police leaders said Monday

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Kris Coronado

While new statistics released this month by Montgomery County police seem to show a major increase in the number of reported rapes in the county, police say that’s not the case.

Police leaders say a change in the definition of the crime the department made this year has led to the increased number of incidents being classified as a rape. The change was made to align the county’s crime stats with the definition used by the FBI as part of the Unified Crime Reporting Program.

The FBI changed its policy in 2013 and classified rapes to include male victims as well as unwanted sexual penetration of all bodily orifices, including by objects. Prior to the change, the FBI had defined rape for 80 years as “carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

The change, county police said, led to a 95 percent increase of rapes in the county from 121 in 2014 to 236 in 2015.

Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said the increase this year is expected to be one-time.

“We have not had a significant amount of more rapes this year than any other year,” Manger said during a discussion with the Montgomery County Council’s Public Safety Committee Monday afternoon. “Crimes that last year would have been third- or fourth-degree assault are now a rape. If we were classifying this as we did last year, you would see a slight increase in rapes.”

The report presented Monday to the council committee compares the number of crimes reported from Jan. 1 to Nov. 23, 2014, to the same time period this year.

Manger said the department made the definitional change at the beginning of this year.

Manger also addressed a spike in homicides in the county, which rose from 14 in 2014 to 24 in 2015. He said the county averages between 15 to 20 homicides per year. He said for all but one of the homicides the suspect had some kind of relationship with the victim, while in one case it appeared to be random. Despite this, he said the 24 homicides this year are well below the average for metropolitan counties nationwide.

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