In a press conference held earlier today in Springfield, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt gave an update on the SAFE Kit Initiative, reporting positive progress in clearing the backlog of untested sexual assault kits through the initiative. The Springfield Police Department also announced that they have completely cleared out their backlog, leaving zero untested sexual assault kits in their inventory.
“As a husband, father, and as Missouri’s Attorney General, ensuring that victims of these violent and vicious crimes obtain the justice they deserve – our SAFE Kit Initiative aims to do exactly that. Since launching the initiative in 2019, we’ve made significant progress in working to clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits. So far, we’ve shipped over 2,101 kits to the lab to be tested, resulting in 155 CODIS hits and 35 criminal referrals. These are encouraging numbers, but my Office will not stop until every police department has cleared out their inventory of kits,” said Attorney General Eric Schmitt. “One of our great partners in this initiative has been Chief Paul Williams and the Springfield Police Department, and Chief Williams and his department have done just that – completely cleared out their inventory of untested sexual assault kits, a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated. Today is an important day for the victims of these crimes, and a milestone on our quest to clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits once and for all.”
“Now that we have cleared our backlog of sexual assault kits, we can move forward in these investigations and help survivors of sexual assault in Springfield seek long awaited justice,” said Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams. “Staff at the Springfield Police Department, specifically those in our Special Victims Unit and Property Room, have worked tirelessly to ensure that this process was handled with meticulous care. I appreciate and recognize their dedication. Our progress also would not have been possible without support from the Springfield City Council and funding provided through the Attorney General’s SAFE Kit Initiative.”
In working with the Missouri Attorney General’s SAFE Kit Initiative and with additional funding provided by the City Manager and the City of Springfield, Springfield Police Department Chief Paul Williams announced that the police department had zeroed out its inventory of untested sexual assault kits, leaving none in their inventory. At the start of the SAFE Kit Initiative, the Springfield Police Department had 231 untested sexual assault kits in their inventory. Working with the Attorney General’s Office this morning, the department shipped the last 15 untested sexual assault kits to the lab, completely clearing out their backlog and making them one of the first departments in the state to complete that task.
Attorney General Schmitt also delivered an update on the status of the SAFE Kit Initiative, signaling that important progress has been made in shipping, testing, and investigating these kits, as well as significant progress in securing additional funding.
The SAFE Kit Initiative was launched by Attorney General Schmitt in February of 2019, and aims to clear the backlog of untested sexual assault kits in the state of Missouri. Relying on federal grant funding from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the initiative worked to complete a comprehensive inventory of untested sexual assault kits and began shipping those kits to the lab to be tested with the first shipping event occurring at the Springfield Police Department in December of 2019.
Those shipping events continued throughout the pandemic and across the entirety of the state. In October of 2020, the Office announced an additional round of federal grant funding through BJA that required the office to complete a second inventory that covers all previously tested and untested kits in the state before any funds can be spent on testing additional kits. That inventory is expected to be completed in January of 2022.
While the second inventory is underway, the Office asked the legislature for additional state funds, separate from the federal grants, to continue to test kits. The legislature appropriated roughly $2.6 million in state funds, on top of the federal grants already secured, to aid in continuing to ship and test kits. The Office then quickly, and aggressively, sought bids and signed contracts with several private labs across the country to add even more testing ability.
To date, the SAFE Kit Initiative has shipped 2,101 kits to the lab to be tested. Federal funding covered the shipment and testing of 1,501 kits, and the state funding covered the recent shipping of 600 additional kits. When the Attorney General’s Office receives DNA results back from the lab, it works with the Missouri State Highway Patrol to upload that information into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS. When there are CODIS hits, the AG’s Office works to make referrals to local law enforcement and prosecutors.
Some fast facts on the SAFE Kit Initiative to date:
- 2,101 kits have been shipped to the lab to be tested
- Of those 2,101 kits shipped, 963 have been returned with DNA results. Out of the 963 that have been returned with DNA results:
- 352 were eligible for CODIS upload;
- 272 kits were not eligible for CODIS upload, likely due to the DNA found being that of the victim, the DNA belonged to a consensual sexual partner, or the DNA profile was not strong/complete enough to be uploaded to CODIS;
- 339 kits returned negative results, which means that no DNA profile was found.
- Out of the 352 that were eligible for CODIS upload, 155 CODIS hits were returned, meaning the DNA uploaded to the database matched DNA that was previously uploaded.
- The Attorney General’s Office has made 35 criminal referrals to local prosecutors across the state, and will continue to make referrals wherever possible.
The Attorney General’s Office will continue to hold shipping events to continue to get kits to the lab. The Office estimates that the second round of federal grant funding will cover the shipment and testing of roughly 900 kits, and the new state funding will cover the shipment and testing of roughly 1,100 kits.
The Attorney General’s remarks can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/491909394546487/videos/381803316918220