The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) is a nationwide undertaking funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) at the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) that began in 2015. This initiative helps state and local jurisdictions across the country inventory and test sexual assault forensic evidence (SAFE) kits, upload eligible offender DNA profiles into a national database, investigate and prosecute cases in which offender DNA profiles match, or “hit,” against existing records in the database, and develop procedural and evidence tracking capacity to prevent future backlogs. As of December 2018, the SAKI program has inventoried over 64,000 SAFE kits in 54 jurisdictions in 35 states. More than 47,000 SAFE kits have been tested resulting in over 7,000 database hits.
As the scale of the issue became apparent, the Missouri Attorney General’s Office (AGO) began a preliminary review of the prevalence of untested SAFE kits across Missouri in November 2017. The troubling findings of this review prompted the AGO to apply for and receive a three-year SAKI grant from BJA in late 2018.
Major elements of the AGO’s SAKI grant include the:
Creation of a Multi-Disciplinary Working Group: The processing of a SAFE kit and the investigation and prosecution of the related sexual assault involves a multitude of stakeholders and practitioners. To ensure a holistic approach to Missouri’s SAFE Kit Initiative, the AGO has formed a multi-disciplinary working group (MDWG) made up of law enforcement, forensic laboratory staff, prosecutors, healthcare providers, and victim advocates. The MDWG first met in October 2018 and continues to provide invaluable guidance and perspective to the AGO as the initiative progresses.
Completion of a Statewide Inventory of SAFE Kits: The most pressing issue facing the SAFE Kits Initiative is the backlog of untested SAFE kits across Missouri. The first major step of the initiative was conducting a detailed inventory of all organizations in Missouri that may possess SAFE kits. The inventory covers untested kits collected prior to April 30, 2018 as well as tested kits collected on or before December 31, 1997. See the inventory report for more details. This includes law enforcement agencies and healthcare providers as well as ancillary organizations such as prosecutors’ offices and prisons.
Testing of Inventoried SAFE Kits: Backlogged SAFE kits discovered by the inventory will be tested with the assistance of a contracted private DNA testing provider to prevent backlogged kits from overwhelming the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) crime lab’s processing of contemporary kits.
Upload of Eligible DNA Results to CODIS: As SAFE kits are tested, results that satisfy eligibility criteria will be uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). CODIS is a national database of DNA profiles from both known and unknown offenders and arrestees. As DNA profiles are uploaded, they are compared against existing records for matches, or “hits,” which are used to connect cases and identify perpetrators. As SAFE kits from the inventory are tested, eligible results will be uploaded to CODIS to further investigations.
Upload of Case Information to ViCAP: Eligible cases handled as part of the SAFE Kits Initiative will be entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) database. ViCAP is a national repository for comprehensive case information for violent crimes such as homicides, sexual assaults, missing persons, and unidentified human remains. ViCAP aids law enforcement in connecting cases across jurisdictional boundaries through offender behavior or modus operandi (MO) and related details in cases rather than DNA.
Assistance of Investigations and Prosecutions of CODIS Hits: CODIS hits will be used to develop investigative leads that will be provided to the detectives of the local jurisdiction from which the SAFE kit originates. The AGO will provide investigatory and prosecutorial assistance to local jurisdictions as requested to ensure that offenders are brought to justice.
Development of a Statewide Evidence Tracking System: To prevent a backlog of SAFE kits from developing in the future, the AGO will develop an evidence tracking system (ETS) that will track SAFE kits from production through case adjudication as it moves between organizations during the process. The ETS will provide local jurisdictions a free tool for complete awareness of the status and location of relevant SAFE kits as well as allowing victims of sexual assault to monitor the status of their kit throughout the process.
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