Report shows many rape kits not tested

July 7, 2010 (CHICAGO)

It currently takes three months for a rape kit to be tested at one of the Illinois State Police crime labs. State police are bracing for a wave of new kits in the fall after the report which highlights a gap in the investigating sexual assaults.

A national organization called out Illinois for a large percentage of sexual assault DNA evidence that hasn't been tested. Those tests are commonly called rape kits.

"We were amazed at the fact that the vast majority never went anywhere, never got out of police storage facilities," said Sarah Tofte, Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch requested information from 48 percent of Illinois police departments. They found only 20 percent of their rape kits were sent for testing.

"It was shocking how many jurisdictions have absolutley no idea how many untested kits they might have in their facilities until we asked them to go in and count the kits for us," said Tofte.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new law Tuesday attempting to be more aggressive with sexual assault investigations. The law takes effect October 1. All jurisdictions are required to submit all DNA evidence in sexual assault cases. They'll have ten days to submit the evidence and the state police crime lab will have six months to analyze the kit if sufficient staffing and resources are available.

Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez applauded the new legislation which she supported. She stood with West Side civic leaders Wednesday for the opening of a new community justice center in Pak Park. Alvarez says the faster the rape kits are analyzed, the faster prosecutors can get offenders off the streets.

"If we have a repeat offender, particularly in sex crimes, there could be another victim out there. So the sooner we're able to solve the case and arrest someone and prosecute them, hopefully we are saving we are saving another victim from being victimized," said Alvarez.

Law enforcement agencies have until October 15 to report how many kits they have to be tested. At that time, the state police crime labs will assess whether they will need more equipment, more scientists, the ability to outsource or all of the above. The increase in work will require more money. The governor didn't specify extra funding for the new law. But he and others have mentioned trying to get federal funds.

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