The gathering and testing of untested sexual assault kits through the Missouri Attorney General's SAFE Kits Initiative is continuing despite COVID-19 challenges.
“We're making every necessary adjustment and evaluating options to ensure that the kits continue to be sent for testing on pace while also protecting the health and safety of Attorney General's Office employees and lab employees,” said Attorney General Schmitt.
Since the inventory report was completed and kits began being sent off for testing, 496 total untested sexual assault kits have so far been sent for testing. Shipping events have been held at the police departments in Springfield, Columbia, St. Joseph, Blue Springs, and Joplin.
The next expected shipping event planned is at the Camden County Sheriff’s Office on Monday, April 20th. The Office expects to ship approximately 80 kits from this event. Staff there have taken precautions to limit contact between participants, such as sealing off the lobby to the public to allow a large workspace for social distancing and setting up a drive through-style arrangement where officers bringing kits from surrounding departments will not have to leave their vehicles to drop off the kits they are bringing.
While a shipping event planned in O’Fallon in Mid-May has been postponed, the Office is also evaluating and considering whether to adjust the shipping framework to county-level events rather than regional events. If county-level events are not feasible, then potentially shipments from larger individual agencies will be considered.
The Office has also been in contact with the lab in Virginia that processes the results of the untested sexual assault kits submitted through the SAFE Kits Initiative, and each step of the testing chain is continuing at normal pace. Marshall University, which conducts technical review of the lab results, are also continuing to work at normal pace.
The lab has been deemed an essential business in Virginia. No slowdown in testing is expected, and the previous timeline should hold.
The SAFE Kits Initiative, funded by a grant administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, was launched by Attorney General Schmitt in January of 2019 to inventory all untested sexual assault kits in the backlog, create an electronic tracking system, and send those identified kits to a lab for forensic testing and potentially eventual prosecution.