News and Tribune

November 27, 2012

Jeffersonville Police Department responds to complaints about assault information

Police say language barriers, Election Day played into timing of press conference

By BRADEN LAMMERS
braden.lammers@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — Questions surrounding the delay in the release of information about two sexual assaults in Jeffersonville in October were addressed by Jeffersonville Police Department officials Monday.

Parent and Jeffersonville resident Victoria George brought her concerns to the Jeffersonville City Council meeting Nov. 19. She asked city officials, specifically directing questions to Mayor Mike Moore, why information about the attacks wasn’t released sooner.

Two sexual assaults by an unknown assailant against two teenage boys occurred in Oct. 5 and Oct. 31, respectively, but the information about the attacks was not released until Nov. 8.

Officials with JPD were unable to be reached last week as many of the department’s senior officials were out o the office for the holiday.

On Monday, JPD Detective Todd Hollis explained why the information about the attacks was released a week after the second assault occurred.

“Our second incident occurred Oct. 31, [but] it was not reported Oct. 31,” he said.

Hollis said the crime was not reported until the next day, and when it was, there were communication difficulties as the victim was not an native English speaker.

“We didn’t know we had a second incident until late [Nov. 2],” he said.

Hollis added that after police were able to determine the attacks Oct. 5 and Oct. 31 may be related, police officials wanted to gather as much information as possible on the appearance of the individual. A sketch artist from the Louisville Metro Police Department had to be contacted, and was unavailable until Nov. 3 to draft a composite sketch of what the attacker may look like.

The timing of holding a press conference also became an issue for the police department.

“We wanted to try to get as much impact as we could ... and coordinate with the schools,” Hollis explained. “Because the victims were both teenagers in that area, that was a resource we thought we could utilize to notify students and parents.”

Along with coordinating an effort with the Greater Clark County Schools to release the information — the school sent out a letter to parents warning them of the attacks — on the same day the information was released to the media, the upcoming elections played a role in when the press conference was held.

“[We] didn’t feel like we’d get enough coverage,” Hollis said.

He explained not only did Greater Clark not hold classes on Election Day, Nov. 6, but the police were concerned the information would get lost in election coverage and wanted to make sure the public was aware of the attacks.

The best and earliest date for the press conference was Nov. 8, he said.

“When we notified the public, we wanted to offer the most information at one time,” Hollis said.

Hollis also addressed why police didn’t release information after the first assault. He said the attack was being investigated as an isolated incident due to the details of the assault, which he said he was unable to discuss, until the second attack occurred.

But after the first assault, he said police shared information with area agencies, increased patrols and had plain-clothes officers in the area.

“We were working it actively the entire time,” Hollis said.



STILL LOOKING

JPD officials said they believe the attacker, described as a light-skinned black male in his mid 20s to 30 years old with a trim to medium build, lured the boys, who were walking alone, into nearby wooded areas and sexually assaulted them.

“I was floored,” George said, reading from a prepared statement at the council meeting. “Why didn’t they tell us this sooner? Why did they wait until a second attack? But more disturbing, why did they wait until a week after the second attack [to notify us]?” she asked Nov. 19. “Both attacks occurred within several blocks of where my family lives. Had I known about this, I would not have let him walk,” she said of her teenage son.

Moore, who attended the council meeting, said he also found out about the attacks the day the press conference was held.

“I’m not a micromanager,” he said. “I have a great deal of confidence in our police department, and I think they know what they’re doing. The police know how to police.”

Police are still investigating the attacks and urge anyone that has information on the suspect to contact Jeffersonville Police on their anonymous tip line at 812-218-TIPS; contact the police department at their main line 812-283-6633; or contact the investigators line at 812-285-6535.