Cost of Crime

I was talking with my friend Bill Platt about Hurricane Katrina. Bill said something that totally opened my mind–

“You don’t have to publicly defund the levees. It all happens at some budget meeting that no one pays attention to. All you have to do is move funds from line item A to line item B and it’s done.�

That’s government as usual. Ordinary citizens don’t have the time or knowledge to attend every hearing and review every law. Our press, largely because we have been satisfied for so long with celebrity gossip and lazy reporting, is forsaking news for the more profitable entertainment. Shame on us for eating baloney for so long.

It’s easy for a politician to operate under the radar, just by dodging cameras and taking care not to be taped speaking in plain language. No one can prove that Mayor Sarah Palin arranged to have her chief of police Charlie Fannon, who she hired after firing Chief Irl Stambaugh, change the policy of covering the cost of the rape exam. She wasn’t present at the press conference covered below in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman 5/22/2000…

Gov. Tony Knowles recently signed legislation protecting victims of sexual assault from being billed for tests to collect evidence of the crime, but one local police chief said the new law will further burden taxpayers.

While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.

Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.

“In the past we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer,” Fannon said.

According to Fannon, the new law will cost the Wasilla Police Department approximately $5,000 to $14,000 a year to collect evidence for sexual assault cases.

What is the benefit to the taxpayer in funding the rape exam? Is it an act of charity to a woman, possibly poor, possibly native, as are a disproportionate number of victims in Alaska? Is it basic decency? A lot of the commentary on the net expressed shock that a crime victim would be charged for evidence collection. But this is one of the things that happens at the budget meeting. When funds are moved from line item A to line item B. And what is the impact on the taxpayer when rape is not prosecuted? Here are some stats from the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault

Rape is the most costly of all crimes to its victims. Total costs are estimated to be $127 billion a year in the United States, excluding the costs of child sexual abuse.

The cost for each sexual assault is $110,000; because many rape victims are subjected to more than one sexual assault, the cost per rape is estimated to be $87,000. The cost per sexual assault is broken down as follows:

Short-term medical care $ 500
Mental health services 2,400
Lost productivity 2,200
Pain and suffering 104,900

The pain and suffering cost is based on these facts:

Up to half of all victims suffer from at least one symptom of rape trauma syndrome.

Rape victims are four times more likely to have an emotional breakdown than are non-victims.

25% to 50% of sexual assault victims are likely to seek mental health services and victims often suffer from lifelong physical manifestations of sexual trauma.

The total cost of sexual assault to victims was $18 million in 2002.

I think this underestimates the lost productivity. When a young woman drops out of college, as did someone I know, and never has the opportunity to get her degree, she loses income for all her working life. The huge financial settlements against the Catholic church for covering up clergy abuse reflect the cost of therapy, the lost earning power, and the injury to families. Rape violates families as well as individuals. It is a crime that destroys trust, in society, in the protection of law.

What is the benefit to the taxpayer in funding the rape exam? Sex offenders are almost always multiple offenders. They harm multiple victims. Prosecuting and imprisoning an offender not only brings justice, it protects the community.

The rape exam is the best chance to gather evidence that can identify the guilty, and prevent mis-identification and false convictions. DNA evidence can help solve crimes, as in this 18 year old unsolved case

TMZ has learned the actor who played Random Task in the first “Austin Powers” movie has been charged with a vicious gang rape.
Joe Son’s arrest has been all over newspapers in the O.C., but no one connected the dots — that the suspect is actually Dr. Evil’s henchman — until now.

Here’s how it all went down. Son pleaded guilty back in May to felony vandalism. The plea required him to fork over a DNA sample. Investigators ran his sample and found Son’s DNA connected him to an unsolved gang rape back in 1990…

The crime was extremely violent, and it’s almost certain that he committed other violent assaults. If not for the DNA evidence there would have been no link

Rhode Island is one of the last states to institute a SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) program. Alaska created a SART (sexual assault response team) in the 1990’s. Alaska suffers a higher rate of domestic violence and sexual assault than the national average. Due to gaps in legal protection, Native Alaskans have less recourse to justice. The Mayor of Wasilla could not have been unaware of the issues. Palin’s personal physician, Cathy Baldwin-Johnson, the doctor who delivered her son, Trig, was awarded the 2002 Family Physician of the Year Award largely for her advocacy for victims of sexual abuse…

Baldwin-Johnson was nominated for her work as a family physician; as co-founder of The Children’s Place, also in Wasilla; and as a founder of the Sexual Assault Response Team in the Valley. She recently received the Alaska First Lady’s Award for outstanding volunteerism.

So when the Mayor’s budget moved funds away from covering the rape exam it was not an oversight. It did nothing to help the taxpayer and plenty to discourage reporting. We can’t take it for granted that our politicians and police will do the right thing. I have my theories about why the Mayor defunded the rape exam, and which constituency she was favoring, in Kmareka here.

When we look at the damage to society, the cost of crime, we see that rape is not just a women’s issue. No politician would say publicly that prosecuting sexual assualt is not a priority. It’s what happens at the budget meeting. We need people who know what is happening when the funds are moved from line item A to line item B. We need to support a free and vigilant press, and the community organizers who refuse to settle for words when action is needed.


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