Navy to employ roving patrols to battle sexual assault incidents

Businesses may be asked to help in program

SAN DIEGO - 10News has uncovered new details about how the U.S. Navy is targeting sexual assault on local bases and even in places like downtown bars.

The details come on the same day Cmdr. Allen Maestras, executive officer of the land-based Beachmaster Unit One in Coronado, was fired from his post because of texts and emails to two women in his command.

The Navy didn't release details in Maestras' case, but called the correspondence "inappropriate and unprofessional and did not respect the senior-subordinate relationship."

"I'm outraged when we have these types of cases come up," said Tara Jones, an advocate for military sexual assault victims.

Jones called the incident involving a symptom of a giant problem.

In the Navy alone, 773 sexual assaults were reported in 2012 -- up 33 percent from 2011.

In response, the Navy has been testing a program in San Diego since December -- shore patrols that are assigned to roam the bases every night with chief petty officers in tow to check out theaters, bowling alleys, parks and bars.

The program is modeled after a program at a Navy facility near Chicago, where it's credited by the Navy for reducing sexual assaults by more than 60 percent in two years.

"In the patrols, they have certainly said to sailors this might not be a situation you want to be in," said Brian O'Rourke, Navy Region Southwest spokesman.

10News learned the patrols have helped prevent excess and underage drinking.

The Navy is also in talks with San Diego restaurants and bars to help spot issues.

"The bartender can call base security and say, 'We have a problem person who's in here again,'" said O'Rourke.

Jones said the test program doesn't hit at the main problem highlighted in a string of recent national incidents in which military leaders are accused of misbehaving.

"It they're not setting the expectations, this is the behavior and the culture they are generating. It starts at the top; they must be held accountable," said Jones.

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