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The New London rape that wasn't

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published 08/23/2013 12:00 AM
Updated 08/24/2013 05:55 PM

That giant hissing sound we all heard Wednesday was the deflation of the rhetorical crime-out-of-control-in-New London balloon that had been blown up by critics of the mayor.

The city police union, in contract talks with the mayor's administration, has been fanning a public relations campaign this summer, suggesting that the city police force is understaffed and under police dogged.

One police union official even stood on the steps of City Hall to complain in front of a camera from a Hartford television station that the situation is not safe.

City Councilor Marie Friess-McSparran, a police union cheerleader and lead critic of the mayor, wrote a letter to the editor of The Day about crime saying, incredibly: "New London is in crisis!"

Never mind that the city's own statistics show crime is down. Never let the facts get in the way of a good slick scare campaign.

The balloon really got big after reports of an unsolved rape downtown in July.

City police, apparently leery from the start about the rape report, went ahead and investigated professionally. When asked by a reporter, they acknowledged the investigation, but also, wisely, chose not to alarm the public.

This week, police said their investigation concluded that a rape never happened. The woman reporting the crime recanted her statements and admitted she had consensual sex.

Conspiracists are clinging to the notion that a random, violent rape did indeed occur and that somehow the mayor is responsible. But most reasonable people this week got a clearer look at what's been going on and heard the hissing.

Watch now, too, for the results of an internal police investigation into leaks from the police department about details of the rape investigation. Evidently, while administrators were overseeing the rape investigation, others were busy leaking salacious and alarmist details about what turned out to be a big lie.

The biggest dupes for the rape story were the local hosts of a conservative Ledyard talk radio station, 94.9-FM News Now, who reported the details of the crime as a scoop.

Host Lee Elci actually played a tape of a loud siren on the air over and over one morning, warning listeners to stay out of New London.

J.B., the afternoon host and a former state policeman, shouted many of his long and frequent rants about the rape, saying the crime wave was going to leach out of New London into surrounding communities.

It is interesting to note the same radio station, pushing familiar conservative talking points, suggested people boycott advertisers in Rolling Stone because the magazine had published on its cover what they said was a flattering picture of the Boston Marathon bombing suspect.

If I were a station advertiser, I would worry that people who care about New London and who resent inaccurate and alarmist attacks on the city's reputation might take the station up on its boycott advertisers idea.

Meanwhile, city voters should pay close attention to who has been pushing the high-crime agenda, one that does great harm to the city and its businesses.

Councilor Friess-McSparran, in the letter in which she railed about a rapist at large, making people scared, did get one thing right.

"New London must address these problems damaging its image," she wrote.

Yes indeed. And an election is coming.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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