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Las Vegas police see drop in number of sexual assault reports

Violent crimes overall have dropped in the Las Vegas Valley in the past year, and one type of crime — sexual assaults — had a noticeable decrease in reports.

During his State of Metro speech last week, Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo announced that the number of reported sexual assaults decreased from 2018 to 2019. In raw numbers, that’s 1,585 sexual assaults reported to the Metropolitan Police Department in 2018 versus 1,412 in 2019 — or a drop of 10.9 percent — department spokesman Larry Hadfield said Wednesday.

Although there was a drop from 2018 to 2019, last year’s number of reports was still higher than in 2017 — when Metro saw 1,249 reported sexual assaults.

Assaults often reported years later

The numbers might not tell the whole story, said Daniele Staple, the executive director of Las Vegas’ Rape Crisis Center.

During a phone interview Wednesday, Staple said people can report assaults years later, and that during the height of the “Me Too” movement more survivors may have felt empowered to call police.

“We were like no, no, no this is a good thing, this means people trust in the system,” Staple said about a previous uptick in assaults reported to Metro.

Lombardo said sexual assaults were an aspect of violent crime that Metro had actually seen increase in previous years before the recent decrease.

“It’s the nature of the beast sometimes with the casino environment and the party environment and what we deal with as an organization, but we’re doing a lot better job associated with that,” he said during his speech Wednesday, which was livestreamed by KLAS-TV, Channel 8, but was not publicized to the media beforehand.

After the speech, the department announced on Twitter that overall violent crime decreased 12 percent in 2019, including a drop in homicides and robberies.

‘Me Too’ movement increase

Both Metro and the Rape Crisis Center saw more victims coming forward during the “Me Too” movement, which came about in the wake of sexual abuse allegations against former movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

From 2017 to 2018, the crisis center saw a nearly 20 percent jump in hotline calls and a 35 percent increase in counseling clients, the Review-Journal previously reported.

But some statistics are decreasing. Staple said the center has seen a 3.5 percent drop last year in the number of people rape crisis center advocates are called to assist at local hospitals.

She said she hopes that Metro and the center have made some impact in the valley, which could account for some of the decrease in reports.

Staple said that the center has worked with Metro to train casino and hotel employees and security officers to spot signs of sexual assault, and that center advocates are now called out to Metro area commands when someone gives a delayed report about a sexual assault.

But she still emphasized that police reports are just one statistic used to track sexual assault.

“We can use them as a guidepost or an indication, but not a full measure of everything that’s happening,” she said.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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