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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Berkeley's Sgt. Mary Kusmiss Regrets Stoking High School Prostitution Hype

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2011 at 7:45 AM

click to enlarge Here, this always helps us journalist interpret stats
  • Here, this always helps us journalist interpret stats

The source of the Berkeley High School prostitution hype has fessed up, and believe it or not, the informant is a cop. Actually, the frenzy over talk of teen prostitutes at Berkeley High can be chalked up to one person's mistake. 

Sgt. Mary Kusmiss, Berkley Police's public information officer, told us that she misinterpreted statistics as she was working against a deadline for KTVU, the news station that first reported the story on teen prostitution in Berkeley. Unfortunately, her "misinterpretation" resulted in a report that claimed the high school sent police three to four referrals of teen prostitution a month -- an alarming number if you are a parent there! (SF Weekly then picked up KTVU's story.)

But in reality, police received no more than three cases from the high school last year, and just two during 2011, Kusmiss says.

"I do take some responsibility for how the piece was reported as I received some information hastily to accommodate the interview, statistics that take time to wade through, and misinterpreted them," Kusmiss wrote in a statement. "The referrals from [Berkeley High School] were not correct."

So Kusmiss used this as a chance to correct herself, saying police actually receive two referrals a month about youth prostitution from citizens and Child Protective Services -- not the high school. In 2011, Berkeley police investigated and confirmed one case of child exploitation and prostitution.

Kusmiss says the department is trying to move on from this incident. "This is an unfortunate situation that the City of Berkeley Police Department would like to close the chapter on/move on from," she wrote. "BPD has enjoyed a mutually respectful and understanding, good relationship with KTVU 2 TV."

Consider the record set straight.

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Lauren Smiley


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