Missouri AG reports 5,424 untested rape kits in the state
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — At least 5,424 rape kits remain untested across Missouri, but a new federal grant might help reduce the backlog, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office announced Monday.
The attorney general’s office said 372 of Missouri’s law enforcement agencies, 87 health care providers and five crime labs voluntarily responded to the 11-month audit. The Columbia Missourian reported only 57 percent of the state’s 655 law enforcement agencies responded to the audit.
A $2.8 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant from the U.S. Department of Justice will be used to try and complete the inventory of untested kits, a condition of receiving the grant. After that, the money will be used to standardize collection, retention and testing protocols across the state, Hawley said in a news release.
A law Missouri lawmakers approved last session created a more formal, electronic tracking system that would allow victims to track the status of their forensic evidence. The grant will help the attorney general’s office create that system.
“To undergo a sexual assault evidence examination is a brave act,” said Hawley, the Republican candidate in Missouri’s U.S. Senate race. “No kit should languish untested when its collection requires such courage. My hope is that this grant funding will allow Missouri to test all existing kits and to establish statewide protocols that will prevent any kit from going untested in the future.”
The audit began in November, about a week after the Columbia Missourian published an investigation into the backlog.
The attorney general’s office has formed a group of stakeholders that will develop the tracking system and comprehensive statewide standards for handling and processing of sexual assault evidence kits. The group’s first meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10.
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com