Sexual Assault Reports Increased in County Last Year

Sexual Assault Reports Increased in County Last Year

Annual report from police shows rise in gang-related violent crime

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Reported rape incidents in Montgomery County from 2009-18.

Via Montgomery County Police Department

Reported rape incidents jumped by more than 100 cases in 2018, continuing a four-year trend of increases, according to an annual crime and safety report released by Montgomery County police.

There were 509 reports of rape in 2018, up from 398 in 2017.

After hovering in the low-100s from 2009 to 2014, reports rose to 286 in 2015 and have consistently increased in recent years.

The report attributed the 2015 increase to a change in the definition of rape at the federal level, adopted by the state of Maryland that year, but cites added attention to high-profile cases and the #MeToo movement as a possible reason for the sustained rise.

The movement was a nationwide effort to shed light on sexual violence and encourage victims to come forward and identify perpetrators. Allegations surfaced about a number of well-known figures in entertainment and politics.

Around 26 percent of incidents reported in the county in 2018 happened more than a year before the victims came forward, suggesting those involved have become more comfortable going to police, according to the report.

“Our hope is always that we see less incidents of sexual assault,” police spokesman Capt. Tom Jordan said in an email. “I would look at the increased number of reporting as a positive from the perspective that victims who were reluctant to come forward previously are now coming forward so that the allegations can be fully investigated and the perpetrators can be brought to justice.”

Heroin and opioid overdoses fell from a five-year high of 157 incidents in 2017 to 131 in 2018. Cases nearly tripled from 2015 to 2016, and remained steady in 2017, but declined 34 percent last year. Overall drug overdoses dropped by 22 percent from 2017 to 2018, down 50 incidents to 177.

The department attributes the decline to increased availability of Naloxone, a drug that treats opioid overdoses, for personal use. The county routinely offers Naloxone training and supplies at free sessions, and recently held classes in January and February.

Jordan said Naloxone education is more than a police effort, with county Fire and Rescue Services and Health and Human Services also working to lower fatality numbers.

Calls to the county emergency center fell by around 2.2 percent in 2018. Dispatched calls for service dropped nearly 6 percent.

Homicides fell by three incidents, to 20 in 2018, none of which were gang-related. Seven of the cases were domestic-related, accounting for 11 of the victims. Four homicides were drug-related.

Despite the lack of homicides, gang activity continues to be an issue, with an increase of 27 percent in gang-related violent crime from 2017 to 2018. MS-13 remains the most prevalent gang presence in the county, accounting for more than one-third of gang-related assaults and weapons charges.

Gang-related crimes are largely committed by youth, with 61 percent attributed to suspects 21 years old and younger.

The department created a Gang Investigations Team in 2018, tasked with disrupting gang activity and taking apart the criminal organizations. Detectives provide intelligence reports, conducted surveillance and assisted in cases where there was a gang connection.

“We continue to aggressively investigate incidents involving gang activity,” Jordan said. “We also work closely with the [public school system] in their efforts to keep kids from entering gangs.”

Charlie Wright can be reached at charlie.wright@bethesdamagazine.com

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