It’s hard to low-ball homicides. Each one draws at least some media coverage. Sexual assaults are different. They can disappear.

It’s 2011, and MPD is getting deserved, if predictable, kudos. 2010’s homicide numbers sank lower than they have in over 40 years. But the police are also getting scrutinized over a set of numbers that aren’t so flattering: The year’s tally of sexual assaults. There were more of them. How many more is an open question.

The department says there was only an 11 percent spike, but others believe the crimes have increased by 50 percent. A Dec. 13, 2010 morning crime report City Desk obtained from a source suggests the latter number is more accurate. The report appears to have been prepared by MPD’s Intelligence Branch and reflects data offered by police districts thorugh the “Criminal Intelligence and Tactical Crime Analysis Division.”

According to the report, by that particular morning in 2010, the District had experienced a 46 percent increase in sexual assaults compared to the same period in 2009. A June crime report also showed a 46 percent increase.

The stats come with a caveat, though: They’re preliminary. “The statistics presented here are subject to change for a variety of reasons, including late reporting, reclassification of some offenses, and discovery that some offenses were unfounded,” says the document. But a drop from 46 to 11 percent by the end of the year would need to be spurred by a lot of reclassification and false accusations. MPD has not responded to inquiries regarding the dip.

But the document suggests looking at something called the “Sexual Assault Report” for more detailed information. That report doesn’t appear to be accessible via MPD’s website, so City Desk has requested it.

The crime rate, of course, is politically sensitive: It’s tied to how residents see their leaders and their city. The numbers might also steer the future of Chief Cathy Lanier. Though new Mayor Vince Gray has decided to keep her, it’s not clear whether he’s extended her contract, which ends in about a year.