Oberlin saw a sharp spike in the number of reported forcible rape offenses in 2016, according to statistics released last week.
There were 27 rapes reported last, more than the previous four years combined, according to the Oberlin police department’s annual report.
While the number is surprising, interim police chief Michael McCloskey said it doesn’t necessarily mean there was a huge increase in rapes.
“(Forcible rapes) are major crimes that we have to report that are made known to us,” McCloskey said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s investigated or not. If somebody reports a crime to us, we have to report it to the federal government.”
That includes reports received by the department that may have taken place in a previous year.
“We have to report it for the year 2016, whether it occurred in 2016 or not,” McCloskey said. “For instance, maybe (Oberlin) College safety and security gets a report of a sexual result that occurred in 2013. It may be hearsay, maybe a friend of a friend reported it after the fact, and the victim wants no police involvement. The college makes us aware of it because of reporting requirements and we have to include that in our report.”
Police often receive reports that a rape may have taken place, but are given no details, such as information about the suspect or the victim.
“Quite frequently, when it comes to victims of sexual offenses, there are a number of reasons that they are reluctant to come forward and help with the investigation,” McCloskey said. “It’s certainly understandable. We still have to do reports on those, but there’s no victim information and suspect information, but we still have to report it.”
When such cases are reported to police, the department tries to reach out to the alleged victims.
“We do reach out to them, but we certainly understand the situation and don’t want to force the issue,” McCloskey said. “It’s difficult because oftentimes the victim comes forward and is willing to prosecute, and then they’re put on trial, themselves. It’s often difficult to prosecute those cases but we make every effort to reach out the them and offer them support.”
Last year, four arrests were made where the suspect was charged with rape — two adult and two juvenile cases — according to the annual report.
Other key numbers:
• There were 472 adults arrested in Oberlin in 2016, the most since 515 arrests in 2012. Similarly, 122 juveniles were arrested last year, also the highest since 2012’s 150 arrests.
McCloskey attributes the spike in arrests to the hiring of new officers in the department.
“The only thing I can attribute it to is the fact we were training three new officers. We hired two new full-time officers in 2016, as well as a part-time officer. During the field training program, they’re encouraged to be active with the training officers. There’s generally more activity because of that.
“You probably also see that our traffic citation numbers are higher, as well. Those are included in the arrest totals.”
• Oberlin police made 1,448 traffic stops in 2016. Of those, only 17 percent were issued citations, with 1045 verbal and 156 writing warnings being given to motorists.
Warnings being given instead of citations in most stops is nothing new in Oberlin, according to McCloskey.
“Historically, there’s probably been far more verbal and written warnings given than citations,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is public safety. We leave the discretion up to our officers. It’s also a balancing act. You’re in a small town, and you certainly don’t want to be overly aggressive in your enforcement. I certainly don’t want us to have the reputation of being a speed trap.”
• In 699 incident reports in 2016, the police department reported the use of force 14 times. Of those 14 reports, 13 were physical force and one was a firearm display.
In 2015, there were also 14 reports of the use of force.
Scott Mahoney can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @sm_mahoney on Twitter.