It’s great that police are finally asking the public to help them catch the serial rapist who has been attacking University of Kansas and Kansas State University students since 2000.
But it’s infuriating that they waited so long to let students know what they knew.
In fact, they waited two full years before letting the public know there even was a rape in Manhattan on July 27, 2015 — and in the same block where K-State students had been raped in 2003 and 2004.
That’s dangerous on its face.
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Given the fact that rapists generally keep right on committing that crime until they are caught, police didn’t need to connect the 2015 rape to the earlier crimes to know that it was vitally important to make everyone in the area aware that a violent criminal was on the loose.
On Thursday, police in Lawrence and Manhattan at last coughed up some details about the rapist and his 14 attacks on KU and K-State women, including two attempted rapes, between October 2000 and July 2015. But until then, students had been under the misimpression that the last attack was ancient history, way back in December 2008.
Riley County police said they only recently linked the latest attack to the others, though how three rapes on the same block would not be seen in that light defies logic.
And here’s one of the most damning statements police made — about themselves, that is: “Once we reached a conclusion that there was a high probability that they were indeed related,” said Capt. Tim Hegarty, who oversees investigations for Riley County, “we undertook a lengthy internal discussion about whether or not to make that conclusion public.”
That’s unacceptable, and while Hegarty said putting out the word involved some risk, you would have thought that police would have been a lot more worried about the risk of not letting students know.
In fact, the only risk we can think of is the one that usually keeps campus rapes hushed up — the risk to the reputation of the schools where these crimes occur.
Since police don’t have a suspect — none of the victims knew their attacker, and there are more than a few tubby white men of medium build in their mid-30s out there — the idea that releasing the information might have compromised their investigation doesn’t hold even a thimble of water.
With all of the attention on college rape cases in Kansas, Missouri and around the country in recent years, you would think that police in Manhattan and Lawrence could have skipped the “lengthy internal discussion” and put student welfare ahead of PR.