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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Missouri Has 4,889 Untested Rape Kits — and Likely More

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2018 at 12:57 PM

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Law enforcement agencies and healthcare providers across Missouri have at least 4,889 untested sexual assault kits in their possession, says Attorney General Josh Hawley — and likely even more than that.

Hawley announced the number after surveying 266 law enforcement agencies, five crime labs and 66 healthcare providers. Each kit represents a man or woman who alleged sexual assault, and went through the rigors of an examination to collect DNA or other physical evidence — only for the kit to sit in storage or be left somewhere without further processing.

Hawley said his inquiry had been spurred by a constituent who reached out about a rape that took place nearly 30 years ago. That person's kit had never been tested. When it was, it returned a DNA match.

“From a law enforcement perspective, any rape kit that goes untested means a powerful tool for identifying and prosecuting sex criminals remains unutilized—and a rapist remains on the streets,” Hawley said in a prepared statement. “From an individual perspective, any kit that goes untested means a survivor is denied the justice they so deserve. We must do all in our power to eliminate this problem in Missouri and work to better track evidence that will help identify perpetrators.”

Hawley said his office is seeking a $3 million federal grant that would go toward older kits. Newer kits are "diligently" processed, he said, but there's such a backlog of old ones that further help is needed. "[T]he volume of untested, older kits is so large that the crime labs cannot continue testing new kits as well as address these untested kits," he said.

The state also hopes to use the funding identify other untested kits across the state, as well as create a comprehensive system for victims to track their kits after an assault.

Hawley said some responding agencies couldn't even quantify the number of kits in their possession. Nationwide, the rape kit backlog has been a national scandal. The cities of Detroit, Los Angeles and Memphis alone each racked up more than 11,000 untested kits, the Washington Post reports. New York City reported 17,000.

The organization End the Backlog reports that the city of St. Louis has no untested kits from 2004 to 2014. It's not clear if its older kits are part of the state backlog, or if other jurisdictions have racked up the numbers cited in Hawley's report.

Federal grant awards will reportedly be announced in August or September.

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