- - Monday, February 22, 2016

Sexual assaults in the District have risen dramatically so far this year — a 71 percent increase over the same period last year, new statistics show.

The Metropolitan Police Department has recorded 41 reports of sexual assaults this year, compared to 24 at this time last year.

The uptick in sexual assaults could be attributed to several factors, including how the FBI recently changed the definition of rape to include acts previously classified as lesser offenses, said crime analyst John Roman, a senior researcher in the Policy Advisory Group and the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute.

In 2012, the bureau changed its definition of rape from carnal knowledge without consent to penetration without consent. Rape statistics reported to the FBI have risen each year as local police forces have begun using the new definition, Mr. Roman said.

In that sense, he said, an increase of reported sexual assaults could be a good thing.

“It means that more women who have been victimized are having their victimization counted as a serious incident,” Mr. Roman said. “All sorts of resources are getting applied that didn’t in the past.”

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The Metropolitan Police Department declined to comment.

The number of actual sexual assaults in the city is likely even higher than the reported number: The Justice Department National Crime Victimization Survey projects that only about 32 percent of sexual assaults across the country are reported to law enforcement.

But Mr. Roman said even with the new reporting requirements, he still has concerns about the increase in sexual assaults in the District as it relates to a rise in other violent crimes.

Most violent crime in the U.S. has decreased drastically since the 1980s, he said, but a resurgence is occurring.

Last year, the District had 162 homicides — a 54 percent increase over 2014 — and that rate is keeping pace in 2016. So far this year, police has recorded 12 homicides, compared to 13 at this time last year.

D.C. slayings fell from 192 in 2007 to 88 in 2012. But the homicide rate began climbing in 2013, when 104 murders were committed.

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Robberies so far this year have increased by 37 percent, with 474 robberies reported in 2016 compared to 345 at this time in 2015. That comes after a steadily declining rate starting in 2008.

“D.C. experienced a real renaissance around violent crime,” Mr. Roman said. “But rates at which events are occurring now are increasing in a disturbing manner.”

The trend isn’t unique to the District. Violent crime had declined for 20 years in cities across the country, but significant increases have begun to occur since 2012, the crime analyst said.

“In big cities what we’re seeing is violent crime has come up from the 2011 trough,” Mr. Roman said.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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