Reported rapes up 15 pct. in Mpls.by Sarah Boden, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Reported rapes in Minneapolis are up about 15 percent this year compared to last year.
Through September 3 of this year, 290 rapes have been reported in Minneapolis, compared to 252 in 2011. The head of the sex crimes unit for the Minneapolis Police Department, Lt. Nancy Dunlap, believes the primary reason is this year's unseasonably warm weather.
During the first quarter of this year, when temperatures were much warmer than the prior year, reported rates were up 29 percent from 2011. When Dunlap first noticed the dramatic increase, she wasn't sure why.
She considered several explanations for the higher rate of reported sexual assaults. Were acquaintance rapes on the rise? Were registered sex offenders committing more assaults? Were more males or college students reporting?
But none of these explanations fit the numbers. "Which lead me to believe that the number one reason for this increase was the weather," Dunlap said.
The summer months tend to bring an increase in crime, including sexual assault. People are out of their homes, socializing more.
"Part of it is going to be alcohol consumption," Dunlap said, "[Drinking makes] a vulnerable population."
The Hennepin County Medical Center's Sexual Assault Resource Center also noted an increase this year. They've performed more forensic examinations for cases of sexual assault in 2012 than in 2011.
2012's reported rape rate in Minneapolis isn't terribly high compared to past years, but rather 2011's sexual assault rates were unusually low. And Dunlap notes 2012's rate has leveled off as temperatures become more reflective of previous years.
At the Sexual Violence Center in north Minneapolis, program manager Jude Foster doesn't believe that sex offenders are influenced by the weather.
"When I see rape rates have gone up, then I think we're doing our jobs because people are reporting," Foster said. "When I see rape rates down I know that less people are reporting ... but my crisis line still rings."
However, Foster has noticed an increase of victims reaching out to the center.
"I don't know what is going on right now, but we are slammed. And I've talked to a lot of other programs and they are slammed too. I can't explain that," said Foster. "I've been an advocate for almost 20 years; I remember sexual assault before roofies. I remember when roofies first hit and we were trying to figure that out and we were like, 'What is going on?' So maybe this will make sense six months from now."