Ramsey County agencies unveil new strategies for sexual assault investigations

A major effort is underway in Ramsey County to better serve victims of sexual assault. 

A new plan was announced where police, prosecutors and advocates work together to make the whole process “victim focused.”  This announcement comes just a day after the Minneapolis Police Department announced its plans on how to handle reports of sexual assault.

At a press conference Thursday morning, sexual assault survivor Sarah Super demonstrated courage by sharing her story. 

“On a weeknight in 2015, my ex-boyfriend Alec Neil broke into my apartment, hid in a closet for several hours, woke me at knifepoint, then raped me and cut me before I could escape whatever he had planned to do next,” said Super.

Like Super, more and more victims in Ramsey County are coming forward, with thousands of cases in just the last two years.

“In 2018 we had 2,241 criminal sex conduct cases that came into the St. Paul Police Department,” said St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell. “This compares to 1,805 cases in the year prior to this 2017. 24% increase that is significant.”

It’s the same for all of Ramsey County’s eight police departments and the sheriff’s office.  

“We’ve had a 75% increase in the cases that have been presented to our office for prosecution review,” said Ramsey County Attorney Jon Choi.

When the numbers started going up, the need for change went up with it. 2018 was the year to identify the problems, now authorities are looking to implement the solutions. In part, advocates will be invited to all investigative interviews, all patrol officers will be trained on sexual violence, police will conduct in-person interviews, a better tracking system will be created and there will be improved collaboration between investigators and prosecutors.

“As more victims come forward to law enforcement and more cases are presented, it is so critical for us in this community to get this right,” said Choi.

Getting it right starts by believing, but now there is more training and resources and ultimately compassion.

“Every survivor deserves the compassionate and affirming response that I received,” said Super.

The police chief from Roseville did explain how stretched the smaller, suburban agencies are in terms of resources. They have one sex crimes investigator, who is currently handling about 250 cases a year. The number of victims reporting across the county is only expected to go up.