Increase in sexual assaults in 2011 crime report 'concerns' city

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Violent crime continues to decrease within the City of Charleston limits according to new figures from the 2011 Charleston City Police Department crime report.

The city highlighted its fight against violent crime as a big win for the department since 2007. The report claims cases of violent crimes have dropped by 50 percent in the last four years.

Police Chief Greg Mullen says much of the success this year has to do with recording 50 fewer aggravated assaults than in 2010.

But according to Mullen, a category that has seen an increase are the amount of sexual assaults.

"That's going to be one of our target areas this year," said Mullen. "We've been working with various groups for the past two or three years to try and put some things together to solve this. We take every one of these cases very seriously."

Mullen says 26 sexual assault cases were reported in 2010 in comparison to the 30 filed this past year.

One of the groups police are working with is People Against Rape who cover the Tri-County area assisting with those that have been sexually assaulted and working to prevent future cases.

"It's a big issue," says executive director Melonea Marek. "It's a big issue everywhere."

Marek and her organization are working on a project with the police department to educate young adults, especially young men, about sexual abuse before it happens.

"What we've started is a program called Mentors in Violence Protection (MVP)," said Marek. "What happens is men and women are trained to go in an speak with young boys to teach them how to be respectful of girls."

Marek says the program should yield good results but much more is being done behind the scenes to prevent the number of sexual assaults from rising in the City of Charleston next year.

Also on the rise since last year, motor vehicle theft. The press release states, "Motor vehicle theft during the year saw an increase when specialty vehicle thefts, including mopeds, golf carts and lawn mowers, are added to the category.  There were 267 total offenses in 2011 which included 66 mopeds compared to 241 in 2010 including 28 mopeds."

The police department cites the rise in gas prices and demand of mopeds for the increase. One area that dropped dramatically in the past year is burglaries.

Mullen says the experience can be a traumatic one for people because the action invades their homes. Burglaries dropped by almost 160 cases from 612 in 2010 to 448 in 2011.

The 2011 crime report also mentions categories that stayed even over the last year.

"Most violent crime categories remained consistent between the two reporting periods.  There were 11 homicides in the city compared to 10 in 2010.  Robberies were generally stable with 159 incidents in 2011and 158 in 2010," the report stated.

This year, the Charleston City Police department is creating a 'Real Time Crime Center' to help them solve and work crimes in real-time.  The program will allow officers to gather intelligence and investigate crimes in a more efficient way through data collecting from other crimes and location information.

Chief Mullen says trial runs for that program will start sometime in April.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.