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Attorney General Hawley fights to get rape kits tested

The almost 4,890 Missouri rape kits sitting in police evidence lockers or hospital storage likely represent only a fraction of the untested evidence across the state, according to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Fewer than half of the law enforcement agencies surveyed about their untested rape kits responded by the time preliminary results were released last month, the Springfield News-Leader reported. Attorney General Josh Hawley’s Office contacted nearly 680 law enforcement agencies, 110 hospitals and five crime labs across the state over the past several months. The survey report in May included information provided by only about 265 law enforcement agencies, 65 heath care providers and the five crime labs.

A spokeswoman for Hawley said Thursday that 74 more surveys have since come in, showing an additional 363 untested rape kits, which is evidence collected after alleged sexual assaults.

“This underscores why it is absolutely vital to establish a statewide tracking system for all rape kits,” said Mary Compton, Hawley’s press secretary.

Hawley’s office estimates it could take until the end of March 2019 to complete the comprehensive statewide inventory.

Former Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation to create a more formal, electronic tracking system that would allow victims to track the status of their forensic evidence.

hawley

Hawley

Hawley has made the issue a priority since taking office. He has requested more than $2.8 million in U.S. Justice Department grant money to establish a statewide tracking system and begin testing the backlog of kits. The office applied for funding through the National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative in April.

The volume of untested rape kits “has caused victims of sexual assault to feel detached from their healing process, and it has allowed offenders to escape undetected and unpunished,” Hawley said in the grant application.

The office plans to use the grant money to ship sexual assault evidence kits to forensic labs through March 2021. Testing the kits will require using out-of-state labs and resources since the state’s crime labs lack the capacity to test all the kits, Hawley’s office said.

–Wire services

 

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