Local briefs

Changing culture? -- SPOKANE -- Good news, Spokane: You're slightly less likely to be murdered or lose property to thieves, if city police statistics are any indication. The bad news is, you're more likely to have a car stolen, get assaulted or be raped.

Police reports show that homicides are down 14 percent in the first 11 months of 2001 versus last year. Assaults, though, jumped 12 percent, robberies 17 percent, and forcible rapes (that is, non-statutory cases) 16 percent. Residents reported 71 rapes in the first 11 months of this year compared to 61 last year. Burglaries are about even in the first 11 months, but have seen a spike in the last couple of weeks, says Dick Cottam, police spokesman.

Police say many property crimes are the result of drug addicts stealing to support their habits. Nothing new there. It's the rape reports that are more ambiguous: There's no way to tell if the reports reflect more sexual crimes or more accurate reporting -- or both.

"How can you tell?" asks Cottam. "More people are reporting it now, but it's still under-reported."

Reports to the Spokane County Sheriff's Department, meanwhile, are staying about even. There were 40 reports of forcible rape in the first 10 months last year, and 42 this year.

The Lutheran-based Sexual Assault and Family Trauma Response Center, however, has assisted a quarter more sexual victims this year than last, says Sheryl McGrath, regional development director. Lutheran Community Services of the Inland Northwest also treated 1,050 victims of sexual assault aged 12 or under last year.

Child assault "is the tragedy no one wants to talk about," she says. As for the increase, "They may be going up, but I would say more are being reported. We are spending a lot more of our time and efforts and dollars getting out into the community. [We're] saying, 'It is okay to ask for assistance, and we are here to help.' "

Newspaper on the rise -- SPOKANE -- The inaugural edition of Spokane's homeless newspaper, The Rising Times, is "going very, very well," according to Leah Sottile.

Sottile and fellow Gonzaga University student Aaron Sanchez created the street newspaper to give a voice to homeless and poverty-stricken city residents. The paper relies on homeless vendors, who sell it on the street for $1. Vendors keep most of the money, too -- it's payment for a product, not panhandling, say Sottile and Sanchez.

Vending of the first issue, which came out late last month, has been somewhat sporadic, but Sottile says people have purchased at least several hundred copies. They printed 2,000. About 20 people have contacted them to sign up for vending.

"It seems like every day we're bringing papers to new people," Sottile says. "It's cool because some of the vendors will stand and talk about what's in the paper."

There's been only one complaint from a downtown business, she says. The next issue of the Times is slated for late January.