The Joplin Police Department's latest impact report shows that overall crime is down, but there are concerns. Specifically, sexual assault cases have risen sharply.
In all of 2016, the JPD handled 26 sexual assault cases. Already in 2017, they've taken on 44 cases. That's a 69% increase.
Joplin police say they are aware of the increase and are committed to dedicating resources to the problem. They're hopeful part of the increase can be attributed to more victims having the courage to come forward, but they aren't assuming anything.
"So ideally (the increased case numbers are) just because people are more comfortable (coming forward). Realistically there probably still is a rise in those numbers," said JPD Captain Trevor Duncan
The next step for the JPD is breaking down the sexual assault cases. Since each case has individual circumstances, there isn't a universal solution.
"We look into what those circumstances are and what was going on when those crimes were reported," said Captain Duncan.
Scarlett Tomasi is the SANE - sexual assault nurse examiner - program coordinator for Mercy Joplin. Her department is dedicated to helping sexual assault victims, but hasn't seen the same increase as the JPD.
"We don't see all the sexual assault victims in the community. Our partners across the street also have a sexual assault nurse program. I would say it's consistent with last year's, maybe a little bit more," said Tomasi.
But that doesn't mean Tomasi and her coworkers aren't concerned about the increase. They work hand in hand with the JPD, helping victims of sexual assault, and have the utmost confidence in them.
"Our local law enforcement are fantastic. They do a great job making the victims of sexual assault feel comfortable. They have a great partnership with the hospitals. I just can't say enough positive things about them," said Tomasi
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