Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced today that the sixth batch of untested sexual assault kits identified in the SAFE Kit Initiative inventory were shipped off to the lab. Precautions were taken to ensure that the kits could be safely dropped off while maintaining social distancing requirements.
“One of my top priorities as Missouri Attorney General is to ensure that the untested sexual assault kits continue to be shipped and tested as we move forward with our SAFE Kit Initiative,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Sheriff Helms and the Camden County Sheriff's Office have gone above and beyond to ensure that these kits are shipped while mitigating risks related to COVID-19, and I appreciate their help on this important initiative.”
“I am proud my department is involved in paving the way for a new response to collecting sexual assault kits from around the area. It has been a great collaboration between many law enforcement agencies and the State of Missouri to make this occur and we appreciate being involved with it,” said Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms.
A total of 96 kits were shipped from neighboring police departments and sheriff's offices, including Centralia Police Department, Osage Beach Police Department, Lake Ozark Police Department, Eldon Police Department, Rolla Police Department, Benton County Sheriff's Office, Phelps County Sheriff’s Office, Morgan County Sheriff, and more.
Corporal Tiffany Blakely from the Camden County Sheriff's Office worked with the Attorney General's Office to implement a delivery system that both protects the health and safety of the individuals participating, as well as the chain of custody. Instead of having all participants gather in the lobby, the Camden County Sheriff's Office provided curbside service for participating individuals, meaning they had the option not to leave their cars. Once all the kits were gathered, the kits were packaged and sent off to the lab.
In addition to Monday's shipping event, shipping events have been held at the police departments in Springfield, Columbia, St. Joseph, Blue Springs, and Joplin.
The Attorney General's 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. The lab has been deemed an essential business, and Marshall University, which conducts technical review of the lab results, are also continuing to work at normal pace. 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.
Video from the launch of the initiative can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFEcYsSgcbg.