Sexual assault kit tests

In a Feb. 17 photo, the Idaho State Police Forensic Services lab tests for DNA samples.

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The Department of Justice this week awarded $38 million in funding to help state, tribal and local government agencies process thousands of currently untested, backlogged sexual assault kits.

Funding came from the fiscal year 2016 National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grants, meant to fund the testing of previously untested sexual assault kits, commonly called rape kits. While Idaho was not an applicant for the grants, the state passed legislation of its own this year regarding the tracking and testing of rape kits.

A sexual assault kit is used to collect forensic evidence and remaining DNA from a potential sexual assault victim after an alleged assault. The evidence can be used to track suspects and keep DNA samples on file to assist in providing evidence against people believed to be serial rapists.

The national initiative’s funding allows grantees to pursue criminal investigation leads found through kit testing and develop an evidence-based tracking system, according to the Department of Justice.

Grantees can use the funds to conduct research on outcomes in sexual assault cases and increase collection of DNA that may lead to identification of serial sex offenders, according to the DOJ.

Idaho’s legislation didn’t mandate all kits be tested but did require tracking of those kits that go untested. The first-ever statewide count will come before legislators on Jan. 20.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded 19 grants, totaling $25 million to state, local and tribal law enforcement jurisdictions. Seven supplemental awards of more than $6 million went to grantees that received National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative awards in prior years that need to continue efforts.

An additional $5 million was awarded to Research Triangle Institute to provide training and technical assistance to the grantees in the development and implementation of sexual assault kit submission, tracking and investigation processes, according to the DOJ.

Another $2 million went to the National Institute of Justice to support the evaluation of the programs in the initiative, according to the DOJ.

Ruth Brown is the public safety and digital first reporter. Contact her at 465-8105 or rbrown@idahopress.com. Follow @RuthBrownNews.

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