Police, Advocates try to ease fears at meeting

Authorities offer statistics about sexual assaults, status of investigations

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— The threat to women regarding sexual assault and the investigation of a sexual assault reported in downtown were among the topics of a sprawling town hall meeting with victims’ advocates and police Tuesday night.

Steamboat Springs Police Department and Advocates Building Peaceful Communities representatives led a discussion with about 25 community members. Almost all of the audience was connected to the Advocates program or the police force.

Topics included two reported sexual assaults and the media coverage of the investigation, how sexual offenders register and are monitored, how women should protect themselves and the risk of sexual assault in Steamboat.

Police Chief J.D. Hays, Capt. Joel Rae and Detective Dave Kleiber led the meeting for the police. Kleiber provided a series of statistics. He said 16 sex crimes were reported to Steamboat police in 2009. Of those, 11 were sexual assaults. About 90 percent of sexual assaults reported in Steamboat are by people known to the victim, Kleiber said.

The police representatives again reviewed the details they are willing to release from an assault reported Oct. 21, including that a woman reported she was sexually assaulted at 11th and Oak streets as she walked home from a bar. Police investigated the report and sent evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and no suspects have been identified.

The coverage of the assault in the Steamboat Pilot & Today also was questioned because the newspaper did not immediately report details of the sexual assault. The report was listed in the police blotter the next day, but no address was given because the address could potentially have identified the victim.

Rae said police would have made a point to get media attention to the case if they thought there was a threat to the public.

“We care about people,” Rae said. “If we thought there was some threat — didn’t matter if it was a burglar, a serial rapist, a burglar on the loose or a problem with a vicious dog — we want people to know to take the necessary precautions.”

Advocates Executive Direc­tor Diane Moore said her group would work to put more public service announcements in the newspaper.

Rae emphasized that police could not give out all the details about the Oct. 21 case because it could jeopardize the investigation. He said it could be possible that the assault did not happen, but he did not want to discount the report and said police are investigating.

He said that the final report, with some details redacted, will be available if police identify a suspect and give the case to the district attorney or if police close the case.

Rae also addressed rumors that have circulated via e-mail and text message.

“Probably what concerns me the most is that there is other information out there that is either a rumor or has not been reported to law enforcement,” he said.

Near the end of the meeting, resident Karen Dixon asked how afraid she should be walking the street.

“I’m not here to judge the level of awareness, but the level of fear,” she said.

She said the information presented put her somewhat at ease, but she said, “I don’t want to falsely be put at ease.”

Kleiber said his wife was out by herself at the time, skiing on Howelsen Hill.

“She rode her bicycle from her house to Blackmer Drive, skied up to the quarry by herself,” he said. “I have no concern whatsoever.”

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