Reports: rape incidents up in Mesa County in 2015

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT) -- There was a staggering increase in reported rapes for Mesa County and the state of Colorado, according to the 2015 crime report compiled by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

“It's a sad statistic to have to report, it’s terribly sad,” said Mesa County mom Ursula Coltharp.

Rape is one of the most under reported crimes locally and nationwide.

"It's very personal—somebody's personal space was violated and it can be very difficult to talk," said Megan Terlecky public information officer for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. “One of the things we see anytime with a case involving sexual assault or rape is that it can be very difficult for a victim to come forward."

Mesa County law enforcement agencies reported a total of 127 rape incidents in 2015, according to new CBI Crime Report. That is up 18.7 percent from 2014.

"We shouldn't get lost in statistics because one sexual assault is one too many," said John Marshall, dean of student services at Colorado Mesa University. "The reality is that even one of these events is an absolute disaster to those who are involved."

Marshall said CMU’s Student Services does a lot to help students to prevent assaults and protect victims of sexual assault and rape.

Collecting this data is challenging since local and state agencies categorize and define rape in different ways.

"It all depends on the different statutes that are available, but in terms of folks out in the community, any unwanted sexual contact is a crime," Terlecky said.

Mesa County numbers are low in comparison to other counties in the state with similar populations. For example, Pueblo County has a similar population but had double the amount of general crimes reported than Mesa County.

Many residents still feel Mesa County is a safe place to live.

“I have always felt safe here, beautiful people, love it, it’s a great, great, great place to live,” Coltharp said.

The Mesa County Sheriff's Office noted these numbers look like they are solely based on reports not numbers of cases open or arrests made, which may cause a difference in the numbers.

Other crimes reported in Mesa County are also seeing a general up tick.

Assaults in 2015 were up by over 7 percent over 2014. Burglary incidents saw a 22 percent increase over the same period. Motor vehicle theft was up by nearly 19 percent in 2015.

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