Montgomery County’s Rape Crisis
Montgomery County Police have arrested at least seven undocumented immigrants on rape and other sex-related charges within a six-week period. The seven male suspects – all natives of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras – are accused of targeting females as young as 11-years-old. Six of the suspects knew their victims. One attack, a rape near downtown Silver Spring, was random. [i]
These latest incidents are but the tip of the iceberg in an appalling surge of rapes in the county. After hovering in the low-100s from 2009 to 2014, there were 509 rape reports in 2018. [ii]
In trying to explain these numbers to Bethesda Beat, a Montgomery County police spokesman attributed the increase in part to the #MeToo movement. Under this MCPD theory, the nationwide effort to expose sexual violence is causing more victims to come forward now to report past attacks.[iii] The spokesman noted that about 26% of incidents reported last year happened more than a year prior. Yet even with this “explanation,” the number of rapes reported committed last year in the County remains nearly four times the number for 2012.
Criminologists offer disturbing data regarding the consequences of unprosecuted rape. According to one study of 120 self-reported, but never prosecuted rapists, the majority were repeat offenders. Collectively they were responsible for 1,225 separate acts of interpersonal violence, including rape, battery, and child physical and sexual abuse. The report concluded that these repeat rapists averaged 5.8 rapes each.[iv]
Against this backdrop of serial rapists, comes an audit by Attorney General Brian Frosh that Montgomery County has the dubious distinction of leading the state’s jurisdictions with the largest number of untested rape kits, 1,165. The runners-up are (2) the Baltimore City Police Department (871); (3) the Howard County Police Department (503); (4) the Anne Arundel County Police Department (207); (5) the Baltimore County Police Department (197); (6) the Frederick Police Department (143); (7) the Harford County Sheriff’s Office (107); (8) the Prince George’s County Police Department (99); (9) the Maryland State Police (57); (10) the Cambridge Police Department (51).[v]
A rape kit, also known as a sexual assault evidence collection kit (SAECK), is a package of items used by medical personnel for gathering and preserving physical evidence following an allegation of sexual assault. The evidence collected from the victim can aid the criminal rape investigation and the prosecution of a suspected assailant. DNA evidence can have tremendous utility for sexual assault investigations and prosecution by identifying offenders, revealing serial offenders through DNA matches across cases, and exonerating those who have been wrongly accused. According to law enforcement best practices, these kits should be submitted to labs within seven to 30 days.
According to the Maryland Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Policy and Funding Committee, so many kits are untested in the state because law enforcement agencies decide not to submit them. The Committee speculates that because Maryland’s current rape statute requires a rapist to use force or a threat of force as an element of the crime, the absence of physical resistance may contribute to a decision not to pursue testing.[vi]
County Executive Marc Elrich is expected shortly to nominate Darryl McSwain to be Montgomery County Police Chief, according to other news accounts. McSwain is currently chief of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police but retired from the Montgomery County Police Department last year after 30 years of service. The installation of a new Chief provides an excellent opportunity for a top to bottom review of MCPD anti-rape strategies, including the more comprehensive use of all the tools at the disposal of the Police Department. These include the forensic analysis from rape kits and support from Federal law enforcement, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
[v] Montgomery County does retain rape kits indefinitely, while other Maryland jurisdictions, such as Baltimore County, discard some kits in as little as three months. Given that Maryland has no statute of limitations for any felony sex crime, such short term disposal is hard to justify.