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The Rape Squad Files

"Going down with crime." For years, that was the phrase among Philadelphia police about their culture of minimizing or dismissing complaints from crime victims. This practice kept crime statistics low, thereby improving the department's image.

In articles and series published in recent years, The Inquirer examined that long-standing practice - especially the "downgrading" of rapes.

Former Police Commissioner John F. Timoney eventually acknowledged that many rapes and other sex offenses had been improperly classified and had received little or no investigation. The department eventually admitted that its sex crimes unit had misclassified 1,822 crimes dating back to 1995.

Among the cases declared "non-crimes" by the unit were assaults by the serial attacker once known only as the Center City rapist. In 2002, police finally identified him: Troy Graves.

Graves ultimately confessed to the 1998 murder of the University of Pennsylvania graduate student Shannon Schieber and assaulting five other Philadelphia women between 1997 and 1999. He also pleaded guilty to attacking eight women in Fort Collins, Colo., where he was arrested in 2002. Graves is serving a life sentence.

Read The Inquirer's coverage of the police mishandling of rape cases and articles about the Center City rapist. Or read about the overall problem of police burying complaints from victims.

Read FBI, police correspondence over city rape rates

In the early 1980s, when the police rape squad was founded, the FBI questioned the unit's high rate of "unfounding" rape complaints -- rejecting them as false. The squad defended its policies. Read the exchange of letters and the Police Department's' official directive on when police may "unfound" a case. By keeping many cases out of the crime statistics, the police were able to artificially boost their arrest rate for rape. See our graphic on the rape case "clearance" rate.

Search Philadelphia major crime reports
12/18/2009 NOTE: These web searches no longer work, as the data is out of date. This section is provided as a reference only.
This database contains reports on more than 900,000 serious crimes, including rapes and attempted rapes, reported to the FBI by Philadelphia police from 1991 through 1999.

Search Philadelphia minor crime and "non-crime" reports
12/18/2009 NOTE: These web searches no longer work, as the data is out of date. This section is provided as a reference only.
For 1997, 1998 and 1999, this database includes reports on more than 300,000 lesser offenses, ranging from simple assaults to lesser sex offenses. The reports include several thousand incidents that were deemed "investigation of persons" or "investigation, protection, medical examination" -- two non-crime codes often applied to allegations of sexual assault.

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