Sexual Offenses Increasing

Sexual Offenses Increasing

By Carla Branch

There have been two attempted sexual assaults in Alexandria in the past week and police are still looking for suspects in both cases.

The first incident occurred on Sept. 28 at around 5 a.m. A 28-year-old female city resident was jogging in the 2600 block of Commonwealth Avenue. She passed a man who chased her. When he caught her, he grabbed her clothing and attempted to remove her top. She screamed and the suspect fled.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 20 to 30 years old, wearing a baseball cap, hooded sweat shirt and jeans.

The second incident happened on Oct. 3 at around 2 a.m. A 30-year-old Alexandria woman was walking home through the 600 block of S. St. Asaph Street. A man approached her from behind, grabbed her and knocked her to the ground. He pulled her pants down and dragged her to a nearby driveway. She struggled with her attacker. He took her purse and fled. The victim received minor bruising.

The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 9 inches, 165 to 180 pounds. He was wearing a light-colored shirt and dark pants.

According to Alexandria police, sexual offenses are up by 6.5 percent overall from 2003 to this year. There is no change in the number of sexual batteries, 24 in 2003 and 24 this year. There has been one more incident of aggravated sexual battery this year, from five in 2003 to six in 2004. Fifty percent of this year’s sexual battery cases have been closed. Five of them were committed by the same suspect.

Rape is up by 93 percent from the total for the year in 2003 to incidents to date in 2004, from 15 last year to 29 so far this year. So far this year, there have been two rapes of children under 12, 26 forcible rapes and one marital rape. There have been no statutory rapes. Thirty-eight percent, 11, of this year’s rapes have been closed by police. Seven of the 29 rapes were closed by arrest, four others have been closed “exceptionally.”

According to guidance provided by the FBI, “When elements beyond law enforcement’s control prevent the agency from placing formal charges against the offender, the agency can clear the offense exceptionally. The agency must have: identified the offender; gathered enough evidence to support an arrest, make a charge, and turn over the offender to the court for prosecution; identified the offender’s exact location so that law enforcement can make an arrest; and encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits the agency from arresting, charging, and prosecuting an offender. Examples of exceptional clearance include but are not limited to, the death of the offender; the victim’s refusal to cooperate with the prosecution after having identified the offender; or the denial of extradition because the offender committed a crime in another jurisdiction and is being prosecuted.”

Victims of all sexual offenses are reluctant to report them to police. “Sexual offenses are under reported,” said Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department. “In many cases, victims wait weeks, months or even years to come forward. Anyone who has been the victim of a sex crime should call police as soon as possible. That makes investigating the crime much easier.”