(RALEIGH) Attorney General Josh Stein this week announced the launch of a new statewide sexual assault kit tracking system that will mark all new sexual assault evidence collection kits with a tracking barcode. The tracking system will let anyone, including law enforcement, prosecutors, defense lawyers, or the victims themselves, know the real-time testing status of a sexual assault kit by inputting the barcode number associated with their kit on the tracking website.
Attorney General Stein and the State Crime Lab also announced that they applied for and received a $2 million grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Sexual Assault Kit Initiative to test untested kits currently in the custody of local law enforcement. In addition, the grant will be used to coordinate with law enforcement and medical providers to ensure that all kits have barcodes. It will also allow Lab staff to look for unresolved hits to the DNA database on sexual assault kits and coordinate with local law enforcement agencies to move those cases forward. Grant funding will also be used to partner with the North Carolina Justice Academy to develop resources and train law enforcement officers on a victim-centered approach to sexual assault investigations.
“Testing sexual assault kits is essential to public safety because it allows us to hold offenders accountable and secure justice for victims,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Launching this statewide tracking system and implementing this grant are important steps in our work to give victims of sexual assault the justice they deserve and prevent future sexual assaults.”
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice and the State Crime Lab announced the results of a statewide inventory of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits (SAECKs) in law enforcement custody across the state. We learned that more than 15,000 of these untested kits exist. As a result of the inventory, Attorney General Stein made three recommendations to the legislature, which included mandating the use of the statewide tracking system announced today. Attorney General Stein also recommended putting in place a committee to study the untested kits and determine protocol for handling kits going forward and the prioritization of the untested kits.
This committee is convened and will deliver its recommendations to the legislature on Dec. 1, 2018. The legislature did not fulfill the third recommendation to provide funding to test untested kits. While today’s grant announcement will help test some of the older kits, additional funding will be needed to continue testing.
The full results of the statewide inventory of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits can be viewed here.