Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced today that his office has received a second federal grant from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance totaling $2 million. The grant will allow the Attorney General’s Office to continue its work on the SAFE Kit Initiative, which works to test the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
“Through the SAFE Kit Initiative, under the direction of Judge M. Keithley Williams, the Attorney General’s Office has made incredible progress in sending untested sexual assault kits to be tested and working through the backlog of those kits. Under our initial grant funding, we were able to send 1,500 kits to the lab to be tested, 250 more than we initially projected,” said Attorney General Schmitt. “Now, with this second round of federal grant funding, we will be able to continue this great work on behalf of victims across the state. Additionally, we will work with local law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate CODIS hits as they come in, and potentially prosecute those who are identified to get offenders out of the shadows and off the streets.”
The second round of federal grant funding totals $2 million, which will be used in several different ways. First, the grant will allow the Attorney General’s Office to continue to send untested sexual assault kits to the lab for testing.
Under the previous grant, the Attorney General’s Office was able to send 1,500 untested sexual assault kits to the lab, 250 more than initially estimated due to the Office’s judicious use of resources. Those kits were collected using regional shipping events, where a larger police department gathered kits from smaller neighboring departments to be shipped to the lab. A graphic illustrating the reach of those events can be found here: https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/safe-kit-sign-2.jpg?sfvrsn=523515c5_2.
As stipulated under the terms of the grant, the Attorney General’s Office will first update its inventory of untested sexual assaults kits in police departments and hospitals to include kits collected from April 2018 to April 2020, as well as previously tested kits that may benefit from modern testing methods. The Office has already planned for this updated inventory, and will start work on the inventory as soon as grant funds are released.
Once the inventory update is complete, the Attorney General’s Office estimates that approximately 900 additional untested sexual assault kits will be sent to the lab for testing. The Office will continue to use a private lab for testing so as not to overwhelm the Missouri State Highway Patrol, as well as host regional shipping events across the state to gather those kits.
Finally, the second round of grant funding will allow the Attorney General’s Office to dedicate resources, specifically personnel, to aid local law enforcement in investigating CODIS hits as they come back from the lab as well as prosecutors in any resulting prosecutions. The first of these CODIS hits were announced last month, and they are expected to continue on a rolling basis as more DNA results are returned from the lab.