The second-largest county in Minnesota is taking steps to better respond to sexual assault reports after falling short in a review of sex crime investigations.
The two-year review released Friday by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office found that there are few convictions, police and prosecutors lack training to handle such cases, and police reports often lack important data.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Kaarin Long analyzed about 650 sexual assault reports made to six law enforcement agencies between 2013 and 2016. The agencies include the St. Paul, Roseville, Maplewood and New Brighton police departments, as well as the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office and Metro Transit police. The review examined cases involving accusers 13 and older and didn't include sexual assaults within families.
Only about 30 percent of the reviewed cases were referred to the attorney's office for possible charges. About 11 percent of all the cases during the study period resulted in charges.
"A lot needs to change," said John Choi, Ramsey County attorney. "We're falling short on what really needs to happen, and it's not on par with other types of crime."
The main barrier that authorities face is an overwhelming caseload, the study said.
"In order for us to change any of this or to do a better job . the amount of resources that we put into these investigations (has to increase) because what we see is that the workload and caseloads for these investigations is extraordinary," Choi said.
County officials said they'll hire two investigative sergeants to help St. Paul police probe such crimes. They also plan to add two advocates to the county's SOS Sexual Violence Services program to help victims who wish to press charges.
The county will also form an East Metro Sexual Assault task force that will allow agencies to work collaboratively.