Commercial Appeal - City working on grants for rape kit backlog

March 10, 2015
In The News

City officials are working on applications for federal funds to be used to reduce the number of backlogged rape kit cases.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen announced this week that two new federal grants aimed at eliminating such backlogs around the country are now accepting applications. Together, the grants have $41 million available to cities nationwide.

“Yes, we did see it and we do plan to apply. It will help us in many ways if we are selected for an award,” said Doug McGowen, head of the city’s Sexual Assault Kit task force.

City officials released their latest numbers on the testing last month, showing that about 5,386 kits of the 12,374 kits found so far have been tested, or are at labs awaiting testing. That represents about 43.5 percent of all the kits found.

A total of 1,965 kits have tested negative for serology, meaning no DNA can be pulled from them. The tests have led to 352 investigations, and from those, 58 indictments have been handed down. Of those indictments, 25 are against named suspects while the remaining 33 are against a “John Doe” based on a DNA profile. At least 20 arrests have been made as a result of testing.

So far, the city has cobbled together about $6 million, which will cover most of the testing. However, city spokesman Dewanna Smith said Tuesday that additional money is still needed for “investigation, victim advocacy and sexual-assault prevention efforts.”