In the land of the free, those tasked with ‘protecting’ society — often and with extreme prejudice — fall far short of providing anything resembling actual safety. Instead, law enforcement in America often chooses profit over people. One particularly egregious example of this choice is the fact that tens of thousands of raids on people for suspected illegal substances take place every year, while hundreds of thousands of rape kits collect dust in police departments across the country.
If you were murdered today, there’s only a 60% chance of police catching the person who did it. That number drops to 3% if you’re raped. 50 years ago, that number was much higher. What happened?
The answer to that question can be found by looking at where police allocate much of their time and resources.
Civil asset forfeiture pays. Busting low-level drug dealers by the dozen and confiscating their drugs, guns, cars, houses, and money pays. Writing tickets for victimless crime pays. Pulling you over for window tint, seat belts, arbitrary traveling speeds, and expired license plates; these are the things that pay—not solving crimes.
In criminal justice, clearance rates are used as a measure of crimes solved by the police. The clearance rate is calculated by dividing the number of crimes that are “cleared” (a charge being laid) by the total number of crimes recorded.
In the United States, the murder clearance rate in 1965 was more than 90 percent. Since the inception of the war on drugs, the murder clearance rate has plummeted to an average of less than 65 percent per year.
This decline is in spite of there being far fewer murders. It is also in spite of new technological developments to help police solve crimes, like DNA testing, advanced forensic labs, and unethical spying devices like the stingray.
Despite the near complete erosion of the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the clearance rate for murder continued its free fall. This highlights the fact that no matter how many rights are given up or freedoms diminished, police cannot guarantee your safety.
While police are failing to investigate murders, the rate at which they are ignoring rape is nothing short of criminal.
Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.
According to the Department of Justice, there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits collecting dust in police evidence rooms nationwide, and many other estimates suggest that this number could be as high as one million.
As a result of this horrific negligence, roughly 3% of rape cases in America are actually solved. This is in spite of the fact that many rape kits have a high chance of leading to an arrest since most rapists are career criminals who have their DNA on file.
In some cases, the victims even know who their attackers were, but they can not prosecute these criminals because the evidence has yet to be processed by police.
Arresting rapists and murderers simply falls short in the two areas police are worried about—revenue collection and keeping their inflated drug war budgets flowing.
However, because the people have had enough of these crimes being ignored, lawmakers across the country have set out to shift the paradigm—and it is working.
New York City District Attorney Cyrus Vance has helped to allocate $38 million in funding to help 20 states process previously untested rape kits.
As a result of this movement, according to law enforcement officials, more than 1,000 arrests and hundreds of convictions have been made from testing the backlog of kits going back months, years and, in some cases, decades.
“Testing every rape kit is our best practice and our moral imperative – both to ensure survivors receive the support and action they deserve and to ensure that these backlogs never happen again,” Vance said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the program’s success.
More than 55,000 rape kits that have languished over time have been tested and the backlogs in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, and Oregon have been eliminated or nearly eliminated, he said, according to FOX.
According to the AP, the Justice Department has also allocated $154 million to help in clearing the backlog of kits as well.
One case in particular has garnered nationwide attention as a serial rapist, who has preyed on countless victims, has been arrested.
Nathan Loebe had been raping women for years and walking free because police refused to test any of his victims’ rape kits. When Tuscon police finally went back over 1,400 rape kits, they tied Loebe to more than a dozen victims.
“Tucson Police initiated a full-scale investigation into these assaults and discovered that, for years, Nathan Loebe had impersonated Brian Bonsall, an actor on the popular sitcom Family Ties, to assault women he met on online dating sites,” Tuson’s DA said.
One of Loebe’s victims, speaking at the news conference Tuesday, said having her kit “finally tested was a catalyst for hope,” according to ABC News.
In February, this serial rapist and violent criminal was taken off the streets and found guilty in Arizona of 12 counts of sexual assault, five counts of kidnapping, three counts of stalking, and one count of attempted sexual assault.
The hundreds of convictions mentioned above illustrate what happens when police go after actual criminals instead of people who choose to partake in substances deemed illegal by the state. Sadly, however, it has taken hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives for police to finally prosecute these actual criminals. For now, however, at least some victims are finally seeing justice.