"We probably have some of the best investigators around, and as such, I think we get to the facts," he said. "I really think that the protocols we have in place are some of the best."

Still, a significant number of claims don't make it to detectives.

Calls handled on the streets

Department statistics show that about 40 percent of the 911 calls involving rape allegations each year are determined not to have merit or result in reports not being taken at the scene. For most of those calls, there is no documentation of why they were handled in that way, officials say.

"That's a huge, huge number," said Joanne Archambault, a longtime San Diego sex crimes investigator who consults with major police departments and reviewed documents provided by The Sun. "They're not supposed to be unfounding these in the field."

Last year, there were a handful of publicized incidents in Baltimore in which women alleging rape said police failed to take a report. Three officers were suspended in September after failing to take a report from a woman in Northwest Baltimore. Police were also investigating an incident in which a 24-year-old nursing assistant said officers drove away and later ripped up a report after she told them that a man had raped her.

The department has received an average of about 900 calls alleging rapes or attempted rapes each year since 2003, with reports written in about 540 — or 60 percent — of those instances, according to records provided by the department.

A spreadsheet provided by the department showed that in about 50 calls each year, officers gave reasons for not taking reports, such as being unable to locate the victim or not being able to find the address.

But about 300 calls each year on average were more broadly dismissed, with designations such as "no police service necessary," or "complaint abated." The most prevalent option has been to simply mark them "unfounded," which officials say has been on the decline but is still troubling.

"Patrol [officers] ought to be bringing in the specialized units," said Adam Rosenberg, director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center and a former city sex offense prosecutor. "They can't be making snap judgments out there. That's what those units are there for."

Deborah Holbrook administers the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam program at Mercy Hospital, which treats all city and county rape victims. As part of a task force of sexual assault responders, she said she has worked with police to better educate officers at district roll calls, including tips on preservation of evidence and how to interact with victims. Though she acknowledges that she is involved only in the medical aspect, she gives police high marks and said she wasn't aware of any concerns.

"We've been getting back to basics, retraining everybody, making sure everybody is understanding the rules," Holbrook said. "We don't have any big issues on our plate."

Many women who report attacks are less concerned with statistics than with receiving respect and compassion from police.

On the morning of Oct. 25, Danielle Mascioli was asleep with her girlfriend in their Linden Avenue apartment when the bedroom light went on. A masked man was standing at the foot of the bed, holding a knife. He began to tie Mascioli with a hairdryer cord and blindfold her.

Mascioli said the man took her aside and began to take off her shirt. Suddenly, her girlfriend ran from the room yelling and began knocking on neighbors' doors. The man fled.

In the report, police describe the incident as an attempted sex offense, and say the case was relayed to the sex offense unit and assigned to a detective — Anthony Faulk Jr., the detective with the high number of dismissed cases. The incident was publicized by police amid a string of rapes and attacks that occurred about the same time, mainly in East Baltimore.

But the report classifies the incident as an aggravated assault rather than a sex offense. And in a subsequent encounter, she said, Faulk was rude and dismissive. She hasn't heard from him since, and doesn't particularly want to see him.

"This was such a life-changing event for me, and he didn't even care," she said. "Making victims feel safe is part of his job, and that part of the job description was completely out of the window.

"I really didn't do anything," she said. "It wasn't my fault."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com


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