City public safety officials continue to defend their decision not to release information to the public after a rape was reported Sept. 1 in the Lake Avenue-East Avenue area.
An Internet petition signed by more than 100 people surfaced this week, demanding that authorities offer a “more comprehensive explanation of the decision to not alert the public of the details of the Sept. 1 rape.”
“It has become clear that there are numerous citizens of Saratoga Springs that feel the Police Department failed them by not immediately making a public notification of a reported rape that occurred on Sept. 1, 2012,” city police Chief Christopher Cole said in a statement released Tuesday. “I take full responsibility for the decision not to immediately notify the public in this case.
“Although the decision was made after careful consideration of the facts the investigators had available at the time, as well as today, it has become clear that many citizens feel this decision was made in error.”
Both Cole and city Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen said the details of the rape investigation are “complicated.”
“Specifics of this incident cannot be divulged,” Mathiesen said Tuesday.
Mathiesen said police were not trying to cover anything up when they did not issue a news release after the Sept. 1 incident. The incident came on the last weekend of racing at the Saratoga Race Course on Union Avenue.
“I am satisfied that our people handled this properly. There was no coverup. The investigation continues,” Mathiesen said.
The Internet petition posted on www.change.org notes that “the case was (and remains) unresolved, the public was not alerted to the crime until two weeks after it occurred.
“Chief Cole’s Nov. 5 explanation of why the public was not alerted earlier is not satisfactory. Releasing information about the crime would only have served to protect the public, not create ‘chaos’ as the police department has suggested.
“Until the suspect is in police custody, we feel that all women in this community are potentially in danger and further demand that a public notification to that effect be made without delay.”
“In retrospect, it may have been appropriate to release a general statement regarding the incident,” Cole said Tuesday, but Mathiesen said police followed their standing criteria for public notification. That criteria includes judging whether “the safety of the general public and potential for repeated similar acts or additional victims” exists.
Cole and Mathiesen said that element did not exist.
Maggie Fronk, executive director of Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services of Saratoga County, said in the past city police have always put the safety of the victim and the public first when dealing with reports of rape. But she said she couldn’t speak about the Sept. 1 incident specifically.
Fronk said city police generally issue a news release when they have information “to benefit or protect the community.”
“We have always had a positive working relationship,” she said.
Fronk reiterated guidelines for women walking in the city after dark.
“When walking at night be in twos. Don’t walk in unfamiliar places,” she said. “We need to keep ourselves safe.”