Four Texas Cities Have High Rates of “Unfounded” Rape Cases

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By Becky FogelDecember 30, 2016 7:25 am|

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An investigative team for BuzzFeed News this year examined how often police departments classify reports of rape as “unfounded.” But what exactly is an “unfounded” rape report? Alex Campbell is part of the news site’s investigative team:

“An unfounded rape report is not just a case that the police decide they can’t do anything about, can’t prosecute a suspect or anything,” he says. “It’s a case where they decide the accusation itself was false or baseless…meaning they don’t really think the rape happened.”

He says the number of times detectives dismiss reports of rape varies from department to department.

“The data is a little fuzzy, but as best we can tell the national sort of average for unfounded rape cases is maybe around 6 or 7 percent,” he says. “And so we’ve looked at a number of police departments were it was much higher than that – 25 percent, 30 percent, even upwards of 45 percent.”

The bulk of Campbell’s investigative work centered on Baltimore County where the rate was 34 percent. But he also found,  using FBI data from 2009 to 2014,  high rates of unfounded rape cases in four parts of Texas: Dallas, Grand Prairie, Bastrop County, and Pasadena, where the rate was the highest at 37 percent.

And experts told Campbell when rates of unfounded cases get that high – it’s not a good sign.

“There’s been cases in the past where a high unfounded rate has sort of indicated that maybe the police in a given place might not be taking allegations as seriously as you might want,” he says. 

When Campbell reached out to the Dallas Police Department about the 23 percent rate of unfounded rape cases it reported to the FBI, they said their internal rate was lower.

“We tried to follow up on why that would be different from what they report to the FBI, but we never quite got an answer to exactly why that is,” he says. 

And Campbell says they’re still looking into what’s happening at these police departments in Texas and other parts of the country because to really figure out why a rape case gets dismissed because they need more information, like a police case file.

“Until you get the full police report not just the initial, what the officer took down, what the detectives did after that, you don’t get a full picture of what is and what is not being done by the police,” he says. 

To provide tips or information to Campbell about rates of unfounded rape cases in Texas, you can email him at [email protected].




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