Oklahoma Watch
4:30 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Reported Rape Cases Soar In Oklahoma

Despite a decline in overall violent and property crime in Oklahoma over the past two years, the number of reported rapes has soared, a new report from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation shows.

From 2012 to 2013, rape was the only crime that had an increase, rising by 5 percent, to 1,762 rapes statewide, according to the OSBI’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, released this week. From 2011 to 2012, the number of reported rapes jumped by 15 percent.

During the same two-year period, the clearance rate reported by law enforcement agencies in rape cases has fallen. In 2011, 39 percent of rape cases were cleared, meaning an arrest was made, the crime was solved or something beyond law-enforcement control prevented the filing of charges, according to the OSBI report. In 2012, the clearance rate was 33 percent; in 2013, it was 31.5 percent.

Law enforcement officials said they are not sure what has caused the increase in the number of rapes reported.

Rural areas, defined as those covered by county sheriff’s offices, reported a decline in rapes in 2013. Urban areas, tracked by city police departments, reported a significant increase, the report shows.

The Oklahoma City Police Department reported a 61 percent increase in the number of rapes between 2011 and 2013. Tulsa and Lawton police departments showed 40-percent increases during the period.

“It’s kind of like homicide numbers – they go up and down,” said Sgt. Jennifer Wardlow, of the Oklahoma City Police Department. She said the department is not sure what has driven the increase. “I wish there was an easier answer, but there isn’t.”

Jessica Brown, a spokeswoman for the OSBI, also said the reasons are unknown.

“There’s no way for us to tell,” Brown said. One possibility is that “over time, there’s been less of a stigma for people to report these sexual assaults, but we don’t know (the reason for the increase).”

The total number of violent crimes in Oklahoma fell by 7.3 percent from 2012 to 2013, while non-violent crimes, such as burglary and auto theft, fell by 2.8 percent, according to the bureau’s data. Over the two-year period since 2011, violent crime fell by 4 percent and property crime fell by 1 percent.