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Reported D.C. sexual assaults expose bigger problems

Monday - 12/16/2013, 4:10pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- A reported rape and at least one additional claim of a sexual assault at the Wilson Aquatic Center have exposed major lapses that raise questions about other recreational facilities.

The alleged attacks occurred after-hours at the Tenleytown facility. Both happened in November.

On Monday, Sharia Shanklin, head of D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, was on the hot seat to answer questions about the agency's security and transparency with the public.

"Could these people have entered [the facility] without anybody being aware of it?" asked Mary Cheh, chairwoman of the committee on Transportation and the Environment.

"After-hours, someone could enter the building without someone being aware," Shanklin responded.

The building must be properly armed for an entry report to indicate if someone had been to the facility after it closed. Apparently, that security gap occurs with some regularity.

Shanklin said the reports show "inconsistencies," and she promised to make "adjustments."

"Our facilities are not being armed on a daily basis," she said. "There have been entries at points shortly after closure."

Such entries, including the ones before the alleged attacks, are believed to be managers or other employees.

Councilmember At-Large David Grosso demanded to know who would be fired over the lapse at the Wilson Aquatic Center.

"This is a big deal," he said.

Security cameras only clouded the queries about the state of recreational facilities in the District.

The aquatic center does have cameras in place to record a potential intruder, but which manager -- if any -- has seen footage of unauthorized entries is uncertain. With a compromised record of unauthorized entries and no set review of surveillance footage, council members railed against what they call major gaps in oversight.

"Who looks at the cameras, and is it on a daily basis?" Cheh asked.

"No," Shanklin responded. "Video reads are not done daily."

"When are they done, and what's the point of having them?" Cheh fired back.

"Intermittently, and I cannot give any further detail," Shanklin said.

Cheh concluded that D.C. pools have significant security issues and that those have only come to light as a result of reported attacks.

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