ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Police and prosecutors announce changes to a system they say will now better help sexual assault victims seek justice.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office took a look at 646 sexual assault cases filed with police departments in the east metro in the last three years. Just 11 percent of those resulted in charges against suspects. One sexual assault survivor called today’s changes a step in the right direction.
It’s not often public figures call a press conference to point out their shortcomings.
“There is so much that needs to change,” Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said.
But, prosecutors and police made a countywide pledge Friday for better investigations and outcomes for victims of sexual assault.
“It happens entirely too often and we as a society need to do absolutely more to prevent it,” St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell said.
For two years, the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office reviewed the sexual assault system. The 30-page report details a conviction rate of about 8 percent of the total cases reported to cops in the east metro.
The report cites insufficient training, complicated cases, and big caseloads for the problem. St. Paul’s six sex crimes investigators averaged 300 cases each, last year.
“One of the investigators described their job as drinking out of a fire hose,” Choi said.
Ramsey County will now add two sexual assault advocates to its public health department. St. Paul police will add two positions, too. Along with more training for everyone who plays a role in a rape victim’s case.
“We are going to make the changes that are necessary because we see some of the shortfalls that have been happening in the past,” Choi said.
As a University of Minnesota junior in 2014, Abby Honold worked for two years to put her rapist behind bars.
“I definitely wasn’t surprised at the numbers, they’re on par with national averages for sexual assault,” Honold said.
“It took over a year for him to even be arrested,” she added.
She’s 23 now and on a mission to make the process easier for others. Applauding Ramsey County for their commitment to get it right.
“I would hope that with extra resources, with extra officers on those cases that maybe more victims could see justice,” Honold said.
The new police positions will be funded by moving about $300,000 from its forfeiture account. While the Ramsey County board moves the money to cover the public health positions. For more resources to help survivors of sexual assault, click here.