State Crime Lab launches rape kit tracking system
Sex assault evidence collected by law enforcement agencies across North Carolina can now be tracked by investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys and victims through a bar code system, Attorney General Josh Stein said Thursday.
“If we can track a UPS package, we can track a Domino’s pizza to guarantee delivery, surely we can track a sexual assault kit to guarantee testing,” Stein said.
In addition to the tracking system, which launched Monday, he said the state has obtained a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to test thousands of rape kits that are still sitting in evidence across the state but have never been tested.
An audit by the State Crime Lab determined in February that more than 15,000 rape kits statewide had never been tested. Half of those kits didn’t need testing, however, because the cases were unfounded, had been resolved through conviction or dismissal, the defendant admitted the sexual contact or the victim didn’t want to file a police report.
State lawmakers in June ordered Stein to put a tracking system in place, and he thanked Idaho officials for giving their state’s barcode-tracking technology to North Carolina free of charge. Information technology workers at the State Crime Lab have been working in recent weeks to adjust the computer code in that system for use here, he said.
The system will assign a unique number to each rape kit, and those numbers can be entered into an online system to follow the evidence from hospitals to law enforcement agencies to the State Crime Lab and determine when testing is complete, Stein said.
“Sexual assault is one of the most heinous, awful crimes that we could even imagine,” he said. “Anyone who’s experienced that and then gives evidence needs to know that we in law enforcement will do everything in our power to achieve justice for them and to put the criminal behind bars so they don’t hurt anyone else in the future.”
The federal grant also will help State Crime Lab staff to look for unresolved hits to the DNA database on sexual assault kits and coordinate with local law enforcement to move those cases forward, as well as to develop resources and train law enforcement officers on a victim-centered approach to sexual assault investigations.