Presenter Information

*Kallie Crawford, B.A., Lyndsie Ferrara, M.S.

Forensic Science & Law Program, Duquesne University

Abstract

The backlog of untested sexual assault kits is a national problem. Numerous federal funding opportunities offer the forensic science and law enforcement communities valuable resources needed to test the kits, but issues still remain. The majority of resources are focused on the collection and testing of sexual assault kits, but the tracking of the kits has not been a primary focus. This research highlights improvements that can be made to better understand the current backlog and improve the future processing and tracking of kits. Given the lack of a universal evidence tracking database among agencies, tracking sexual assault kits seems impossible. In Allegheny County, over 100 different law enforcement agencies exist, each with their own policies and procedures. As a result, the number of untested kits is unknown. Through a comprehensive review of improved practices in proactive jurisdictions, including Ohio, Houston, and Detroit, valuable data was gathered about improved tracking mechanisms. Additionally, interviews with key stakeholders identified issues in Pennsylvania. This information led to the development of a survey that will aid in data collection related to sexual assault tracking practices across the country. A multidisciplinary, collaborative approach is needed to better understand the true sexual assault kit backlog in order for agencies to more effectively use grant funding aimed at testing the kits. The results of this research will provide valuable information to enhance sexual assault kit tracking methods.

School

Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Lyndsie Ferrara

Submission Type

Paper

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Tracking the Sexual Assault Kit Backlog

The backlog of untested sexual assault kits is a national problem. Numerous federal funding opportunities offer the forensic science and law enforcement communities valuable resources needed to test the kits, but issues still remain. The majority of resources are focused on the collection and testing of sexual assault kits, but the tracking of the kits has not been a primary focus. This research highlights improvements that can be made to better understand the current backlog and improve the future processing and tracking of kits. Given the lack of a universal evidence tracking database among agencies, tracking sexual assault kits seems impossible. In Allegheny County, over 100 different law enforcement agencies exist, each with their own policies and procedures. As a result, the number of untested kits is unknown. Through a comprehensive review of improved practices in proactive jurisdictions, including Ohio, Houston, and Detroit, valuable data was gathered about improved tracking mechanisms. Additionally, interviews with key stakeholders identified issues in Pennsylvania. This information led to the development of a survey that will aid in data collection related to sexual assault tracking practices across the country. A multidisciplinary, collaborative approach is needed to better understand the true sexual assault kit backlog in order for agencies to more effectively use grant funding aimed at testing the kits. The results of this research will provide valuable information to enhance sexual assault kit tracking methods.

 

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