Bealefeld ordered in July that all rape allegations must now result in a report for detectives, something that puts the city in line with other area police agencies. But officials said calls to 911 are not saved indefinitely, and Bealefeld has challenged officers to "find creative ways" to get information about those past cases.

The task force, with the help of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, is seeking grant money to fund a multiagency case-management system, training for detectives, public outreach, and an advocate to help connect victims to services and support them through the judicial process.

In Baltimore, concerns about the reporting of rapes were raised seven years ago during an internal audit.

A spokesman for Gov. Martin O'Malley, who was Baltimore mayor from 1999 to 2007 and is touting declines in crime as part of his campaign for re-election, said O'Malley defends how cases were handled during his tenure. Shaun Adamec wrote in an e-mail reply that "multiple audits during his time as mayor demonstrate his commitment to relentless follow-up and adjustment with regard to proper reporting and enforcement."

"Under the governor's leadership, with the dedication of law enforcement and cooperation of communities throughout Maryland, we've driven violent crime, property crime and total crime to their lowest rates ever recorded," Adamec said.

But the problems unearthed in the 2003 audit appear to have escalated in the ensuing years. The percentage of cases marked "unfounded" soared to 32 percent – only two other major cities had more than 20 percent. More than 2,400 emergency calls for rape allegations did not generate a report. In more than 1,200 of those calls, no reason was given for why no report was made.

"Clearly, an issue in the past was making changes that were lasting," Embry said. "Our goal is to not only do a correct audit and find out what went wrong, but make lasting change, and that means doing this with our partners in a deliberative way."

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